Wednesday, October 14, 2015

They Live (1988)

They Live (USA, 1988) - Color, Director(s): John Carpenter
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 93 min.

Z-rating: 4 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 4 stars out of 5

Back-to-back John Carpenter films! With Wes Craven week just around the corner, I wanted to pay homage to another tragic loss we suffered this year when "Rowdy" Roddy Piper passed away. Wrestling fans knew this man as a legend and movie fans probably knew him as the wrestler who made a bunch of B-movies. Whether you're a fan of his or not, there's no denying the impact he made on people's lives and on pop culture. "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey dedicated her match at UFC 190, which she finished in 34 seconds, to his memory. She initially rejected the nickname, thinking it might be disrespectful to Piper, but embraced it after they were introduced and Piper approved of her using it. Duke Nukem fans will recognize the line, "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum" which originated from this film. Even more impressive, the line apparently didn't come from Carpenter's script but rather a book of ideas Piper had for wrestling interviews.

Wrestling legend or cult icon, Piper was one of the greatest entertainers you'll ever see. Playing a drifter who finds work in Los Angeles, where he befriends Frank Armitage (Keith David), Piper accidentally discovers that aliens live among us. Disguised as the upper class, they manipulate people through subliminal messages hidden in billboards, magazines, and even our money. Piper's character, listed as John Nada in the credits, stumbles across a box of sunglasses that allow him to see through the aliens' disguises and their subliminal propaganda. This is obviously a jab at commercialism in the 80's but social and political commentary aside, this was a very unique take on the alien invasion story. They're not just snatching our bodies or demanding we take them to our leader, they're hiding quietly among us and using our own media to brainwash us.

Perhaps the most famous scene from the movie is the long fight scene between Roddy Piper and Keith David in an alley. Piper is trying to convince David's character to put on the sunglasses to see for himself but David refuses, believing Piper to be a dangerous lunatic. The scene took three weeks to rehearse and has become so popular, South Park did a shot-for-shot recreation of the entire fight. The thing that bothers me is how he doesn't try to warn the public or get any help fighting the aliens. Maybe if he found a high-ranking military leader that was human (using those sunglasses) and then showed them the aliens (using those sunglasses) he could've had some assistance. Instead, he wanders into a random bank and starts blowing aliens away. What's more, he fires into a crowd with a shotgun when there's only one alien among them! This is more satisfying to watch in an action movie but to everyone around him, he must've just seemed like a total psychopath. Luckily, there is a resistance that provides some much needed back-up as they try to reveal the aliens to the world.

Big Brother is Watching You!

Nudity: A woman's breasts can be seen while she's having sex with a man, who turns out to be an alien.

Gore: None. Sometimes blood splatters from someone getting shot but overall, it's not a gory movie.

Awesome: Very. This movie has lived on as a cult classic for a reason. Whether it's the political and social commentary that really does it for you or it's just watching "Rowdy" Roddy Piper fight a bunch of ugly aliens, this is a fun movie that everyone should see. I would still consider this an underrated film despite the recognition it has gotten since its initial release just based on how many people I talk to who haven't seen the film. I feel like it's very popular among groups of people who have seen it, hence cult film, but I feel like more people know of it than people who have actually seen it. Piper reunited with co-star Keith David in the insanely over-the-top Saints Row IV, where they had to fight aliens once again. The fight scene between Piper and David is partially recreated and the mission is obviously a homage to this film. Shout! Factory has a Collector's Edition of this film for only $14.99 with incredible artwork by The Dude Designs. BUY it today, this movie is fun on a bun! (OBEY)