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"I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass . . . and I'm all out of bubble gum."
Put the glasses ON . . .
Put the glasses ON . . .
Plot Summary for They Live (1988)

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.

Editorial Reviews Amazon.com
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An economic crisis brings unemployed Nada (Roddy Piper) to L.A. in search of work. What he finds instead is that the ruling elite of the world are aliens in disguise, their aim being to keep humans in a state of mindless consumerism. His discovery comes when he dons a pair of special sunglasses made by a resistance group and sees for the first time reality unadorned. Billboards, store signs, magazine covers--all bear subliminal messages to OBEY, to CONSUME, to have NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT. Money itself says THIS IS YOUR GOD. But worst of all, with these glasses you see which of us are really hideous, bug-eyed aliens. The conceptual breakthrough is hilarious while keeping its roots in darker matters. Although some fault the film for settling into its action plot, the ending has a great payoff. And the direction by John Carpenter is handled with superb workmanlike aplomb. One unforgettable set piece has Piper in a back-alley fistfight with a friend who won't put on the glasses that goes on and on, and just when you think it's over it goes another round. One of the most subversive films ever made in Hollywood, They Live was released on the eve of the 1988 elections. The first TV ads had two hideous alien politicians debating, then one accusing the other of being "No John Kennedy!"


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"what is the greatest joy?" 06.Oct.2005 00:25


"They Live" -- which is awesome -- borrowed some ideas and imagery from "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai," which came out four years earlier.

Hell yeah!! 06.Oct.2005 12:28


Just had to agree. Two of the best movies ever made. Too bad "They Live" turned out to be the most realistic. We could use a BB right about now

The Auteur of Paranoia 07.Oct.2005 15:41

billy rubin

Those who bother to go rent this highly underrated film would do well to check out some of Carpenter's other paranoia/conspiracy themed films, including his remake of "The Thing" and the hidden gem "Prince of Darkness".

"The Thing", itself a remake of a fifties paranoia classic, pits an ensemble of science nerds against an icebound shape-changing alien, any tiny morsel of which can infect regular tissue and turn it into alien tissue. As the alien gradually assimilates the staff of an Antarctic outpost, the survivors discover that they can trust nobody, not even themselves. Kurt Russell's breakout performance, and you will never look at Wilford Brimley from those silly senior medicare commercials the same way again.

"Prince of Darkness" stars, well, nobody (okay, okay, Donald Pleasance and one of the guys from "Simon and Simon", and Alice Cooper in a role he made for himself) but has a great premise that follows through to a satisfying yet questioning conclusion (another trademark of Carpenter). An ancient order of monks has come to an end, and the secret that they have been keeping must be revealed. A mysterious vat of ectoplasmic glop stored in the basement of a closed church has begun to show signs of awakening, and a freaked-out church wants to hand it over to a bunch of physics students to explain it away scientifically. Unfortunately (for the students) the container is filled with pure evil (looks like hair gel), and evil wants to wake up so it can fetch its Pop, who is more or less Anti-God. Carpenter pays attention to detail in this movie, from showing how the church had, centuries before, dispatched this vat of evil to the place furthest from civilization (a Spanish mission in SoCal!), to the ancient bible-like text that has kept a record of the vat's history for centuries.

Check em out--you'll be glad you did (at least until it's time to sleep!)
Billy Rubin