For five years, film critic Scott Tobias compiled "The New Cult Canon" in a regular column for The A.V. Club…
Who are they? And what do they want?
Nada, a down-on-his-luck construction worker, discovers a pair of special sunglasses. Wearing them, he is able to see the world as it really is: people being bombarded by media and government with messages like "Stay Asleep", "No Imagination", "Submit to Authority". Even scarier is that he is able to see that some usually normal-looking people are in fact ugly aliens in charge of the massive campaign to keep humans subdued.
What strikes me most about Carpenter is his coolness, the calm deliberation with which he lets his plots unfurl. This premise, in the hands of any other filmmaker, would be a lightning quick action comedy, Men in Black or Big Trouble in Little China style. But instead it's almost an hour into a 90 minute film before the hero convinces someone else to try on the glasses. And the film's signature showpiece, the big action number, is a good old-fashioned slugging match between two friends, all over the one's stubborn refusal to do something as simple as try on a pair of glasses (hilariously allegorical, of course). Even the film's most famous line, one I've known for years (as I…
I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum.
John Carpenter's commercial appeal peaked in 1984 when he made Starman, a film that earned Jeff Bridges an Oscar nomination. A mere two years later Carpenter's brilliant Big Trouble in Little China would bomb at the box office and his career would never really recover. It only took one box office disappointment and suddenly the director could no longer find financing for his films. The quality of his next films are arguable, but there is no question that his best work was now behind him although he did have one last success in him.
They Live is Carpenter's last box office success, even…
Overall as a complete package, this isn't Carpenter's best film. However the great moments are better than most filmmakers will get close to in their career.
Roddy Piper, having had his eyes opened, tries to wake his friend Keith David from his slumber but he's stubborn. So he literally has to beat him into submission in a bout that seems like it will never end. David is unwilling to accept that the world he lives in is more totalitarian (right word?) than he could imagine. Not until he has to.
I do this to friends who watch X-Factor.
This is one of Carpenter's few comedies. This isn't a horror or action film, it is purely a satirical comedy that just happens to have science fiction elements.
I think that when you take this film seriously you'll end up hating it. It has so much tongue in cheek and cheese in it (tongue in cheese??), that it is hard to really take seriously. Not that it matters, because it is so much fun. The premise works, the corny one liners are hilarious and it just ambles along at a pleasant pace, never outstaying its welcome.
And the fist fight scene is just one of the best things ever put on film.
Why didn't Keith David just put on the sunglasses!?
Carpenter's biting satire They Live is still frighteningly relevant - probably even more-so than in the 80s - and despite showing its age multiple times throughout a thoroughly entertaining film. Its way of uncovering the many subliminal messages to be found in ads, magazines and television is striking and very memorable. Carpenter has a way of creating atmosphere and playing with reality that uses simple but effective means and, as banal as it is, the use of Black/White photography is a stroke of genius. It creates an even more distinct difference between reality and illusion and has a way of staying in one's mind very clearly. Equally fantastic is the make-up used for the imposters, at first strange and slightly…
I have to say, Roddy Piper surprised the hell out of me in this upon my first viewing many, many years ago. I always thought Roddy had presence. I used to watch wrestling as a kid, back when it was cool. Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Brett "Hitman" Hart, & Rowdy Roddy Piper. In the ring, this guy was crazy nuts. Always wore that kilt & always screaming his ass off. But shockingly here, he plays the drifter calm & cool throughout. & when the time comes to chew bubble gum or kick some ass, he does it with such ease. They Live succeeds on a visual standpoint. Having reality shown in black & white gives the film a spooky look that really works. I…
I loved this film on an intense level. My only complaint is I slightly felt like the end was rushed. Like the film could have went longer. In any case I deeply enjoyed it as a whole but especially the storyline!
It was my first Carpenter-flick. While the concept is great, it feels really wasted. There are some awesome scenes and bizarre dialogues, but there are also enough plot and pacing issues to spoil the whole film. So unfortunately no matter how much I like this film, I just can't give it better score...
Oh, and some words about the concept. While the movie isn't supposed to be taken seriously because of it's B-movie style, it's probably one of the truest depictions of society.
Wonderful nonsense. Roddy Piper has all the cunning of Ned Stark.
Carpenter's reaction to the Reagen era is still a sharp fun sci-fi action ride. Why Roddy Piper never became a star, while the godamn boring The Rock appears in like four films a year, is beyond me.
"Ha, figures it'd be something like this."
This is easily the most underrated film of John Carpenter's career. The acting is sub-par and the plot requires a monumental suspension of disbelief, but none of that matters the moment Roddy Piper starts blowing away aliens with a 12-gauge while simultaneously spitting out hilariously terrible one-liners.
They Live was most likely meant to be mindless satire, but the divide between the wealthy and the poor depicted in this film is uncannily accurate twenty-something years later. Intentional, or not, this movie endures.
Somos constantemente bombardeados por publicidad, eso todo mundo lo sabe.
Lo que nadie sabe es que esos ataques vienen de una raza extraterrestre para mantenernos subyugados.
The cinematography on this is beautiful. It's one of the most modern looking films to date. Both the color, and B&W shots are beautiful.
The always reliable composer, John Carpenter, crafts a soundtrack that, if bound to its era, is exciting and cool.
The direction is fantastic and the script is as good as a Carpenter script can be. It's fun, it's filled with quotes, funny lines, and social commentary. Yes, the social commentary might not be subtle, but, in this case, it's a good thing. Considering that this is an 80s satire, the cheesiness included is very welcome.
The leads are fantastic. They're all charming and it doesn't harm that Roddy Piper is treated like a low-budget Kurt Russel.…
'I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubble gum.'
- Donnie Darko
- Morvern Callar
- Irma Vep
- Miami Blues
- Babe: Pig in the City
- A Page of Madness
- Un Chien Andalou
- L'âge d'or
- Meshes of the Afternoon
A big collection of films that might be considered as strange, mindfucking, surreal and weird. Sorted by year. Suggestions are…
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
- Donnie Darko
- The Room
- Big Trouble in Little China
A fellow member from a Facebook movie group I'm in posted this article! I decided this was going to be…