Sunday, January 23, 2022

They Live

Movie Name:
They Live
Year of Release: 1988
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, George 'Buck' Flower, Peter Jason, Raymond St. Jacques, Sy Richardson
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Director John Carpenter had to contend with smaller budgets following the less than enthusiastic response of the great "Big Trouble in Little China", which prompted him to direct "Prince of Darkness" which was quickly followed by "They Live". "They Live" focuses on the story of Nada, a drifter who comes to Los Angeles in search of a job. He soon finds work at a construction site, where he makes friends with Frank, who invites him to live in a slum type of town/soup kitchen led by a man named Gilbert. That night, he notices a hacker taking over the TV signal, claiming to the audience that people are being enslaved through signals that keeps everyone in a dream-like state. Nada soon discovers a rebellious group, who is trying to unmask this massive conspiracy. When that group is uncovered by the police and beaten down, he manages to escape. He notices one of the boxes the group had with them is now in the trash, and while looking for more clues, he uncovers that its content is comprised of sunglasses. When he tries one on, he notices the sunglasses render the world monochrome, but also reveal subliminal messages everywhere, while also revealing what appears to be a different/alien like species living alongside humans, pretending to be just like them. As he tries to make sense of what is happening, he comes in contact with his friend Frank, whom he attempts to convince of what is going on.
Working from a short story by Ray Nelson, writer/director John Carpenter ingeniously crafts a narrative that is a not so subtle criticism at the consumerism of the world, and in the process, on how everything in life has become a commodity where anything and everything can be bought and sold for just the right amount. The story plays out almost like a "Twilight Zone" episode, something that the monochromatic aspect of reality provided by the sunglasses is a nice nod to. John Carpenter knows how to make economical narratives work, and in this case he manages to do so once more, clearly establishing the goal for the enigmatic Nada, who goes on a crusade to uncover these aliens, with the able support of friends he makes along the way. Of course the story is also an open criticism on the effects greed and corporate malfeasance have on more exposed populations, as can be noted by the slums that are illustrated throughout the narrative. While the characters themselves are thinly described and established, it is nonetheless a film that is original and has the typical John Carpenter touch, including his typical touch where the epilogue doesn't necessarily ring a happy ending. The score from his authorship, with Alan Howarth is excellent, while the film also features a solid cinematography from Gary B. Kibbe. An entertaining film from a remarkable director always worth revisiting.