THEY LIVE

(1988)
With Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, George "Buck" Flower, Peter Jason, Raymond St. Jacques
Directed by John Carpenter
Reviewed by JB

     An underrated entry into the "Aliens Live Among Us!" subgenre of science fiction, THEY LIVE may be director John Carpenter's reaction to what he called "the horror" of the Reagan years, but like many of these films (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS comes to mind), the aliens can stand in for whatever group of people scares the hell out of you. The script contains some of the worst lines I've ever head in a science fiction film ("The bitch is back...and she's in heat", "You look like your head fell into the cheese dip in 1951") but contains one of the all-time classic tough guy catchphrases, courtesy of the surprisingly engaging Roddy Piper: "I came here to chew bubble gun and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubble gum!"

    The film begins as a slow and moody sci-fi piece in which we are alerted that something is going on in the world, though we cannot yet tell what.  When Piper, as our hero, comes across a pair of special sunglasses which reveal the world as it really is, the film turns into an eighties action flick crossbred with a (good) b-movie from the fifties.  Its final third is an unsubtle yet still fun depiction of the Reagan years, with the rich conspiring with the aliens to get richer, the poor get mowed down by the police, and the media keeping us all asleep to what's really going on.  Piper and Keith David carry the film, and stage a fist fight that ranks among the best fight scenes in cinema history - five minutes of two guys beating the hell out of each other! Meg Foster, with her almost alien eyes, manages to play things down the middle, so that until the final moments of the film, we are always uncertain of which side she is on.

    Rumor has it that a remake is being kicked about.  My guess is that Hollywood will wait until a Republican is back in the White House before they get around to doing it.  3½ - JB

Science Fiction   The Secret Vortex