Don’t let anyone tell you that They Live is not your average cuddly, violent, Marxist Hollywood B-Movie. It’s exactly these qualities that make this film so interesting, unique and fresh. I recently watched They Live for the first time and found it intensely relevant to modern day life – it’s possibly even more relevant now than its 1988 release date. The film is based predicated on sunglasses which let it’s beholder see beyond the propaganda from the controlling alien lifeforms. As if the plot wasn’t mad enough, the lead character is played by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper – yes, the wrestler!
Not to detract from the film at all, Piper puts in as solid a performance you can for an semi-action B-Movie. The real genius however may be John Carpenter, the director/screenwriter, does well to build suspense, create intrigue and balance satire with genuine plot. The film could easily be described as anti-capitalist and is popular in such circles for being interpreted so. The structure of the film attacks the constructs of its the society, much like Marxism does – in the case of They Live it is aliens. Through the satirical plot, the viewer can find the similarities between the oppressed brainwashed human life and the oppressed brainwashed Proletariat.
I always find it interesting when a film that has a relatively small budget, little known cast and a very unique story outstrips its expected success. This is very much the case with ‘cult classic’ They Live. This was one of the best films I’ve watched in quite a while, and the story is very simple with no bells and whistles. A man finds sunglasses that let him see hidden truths. Hats off to John Carpenter & Co. for executing the film exactly as it should have been, and more!