They Live

1988, Movie, R, 93 mins


A rare left-leaning Hollywood film from the Reagan era, John Carpenter's THEY LIVE is an erratically amusing throwback to the science-fiction paranoia films of the 1950s. Set in Los Angeles in the near future, the movie shows a society in which the rich have gotten richer while the middle class has eroded and the ranks of the poor and homeless have swelled (sound familiar?). A construction worker called John Nada (professional wrestler Roddy Piper) stumbles on some unusual sunglasses. When he looks through their lenses, he can see what advertising, television shows, and even paper currency are really saying; even scarier, the glasses expose the legions of briefcase-toting yuppies as alarming-looking aliens. Nada and his friend Frank (Keith David) track down a band of rebels and enlist in their effort to destroy Cable 54, the television station that keeps the populace from seeing things clearly. Carpenter is trying for a satire of advertising and consumerism under late capitalism, and although the film is great fun at first--especially when depicting the world through Nada's glasses--it rarely rises above the intellectual level of a comic book. leave a comment

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