They Live title

Tag Line : Who are they, and what do they want?

They LiveOne of John Carpenter's lesser successful, but highly enjoyable pictures was this tale of urban decay and alien invasion. Set in L.A. in the near future, Roddy Piper stars as John Nada, a drifting labourer who wonders into town looking for work, but gets more than he bargains for after acquiring a pair of sunglasses.

Society is falling apart, the rich are getting increasingly richer and the poor are getting even poorer. After several days of looking for work, John manages to get a job on a building site, where he befriends a worker named Frank (Keith David). With nowhere to stay, Frank shows him to a nearby homeless shelter. Although John soon realises there's more to the place than meets the eye.

The first sign of things being amiss is when they pick up a hacking broadcast on their TV, saying that they have been invaded and the world is an optical illusion. The next thing he see's is that the shelter organisers are planning some sort of terrorist attack. Somewhat bemused, he doesn't get much time to reflect on the recent events as the police soon turn up and bulldoze the shelter, gunning down it's organisers in the process.

Then things really take a turn for the extraordinary when John goes back to try and salvage some of his belongings and discovers a box of designer sunglasses. After trying a pair on, he suddenly realises that the world is indeed not as it seems, as whilst looking through them he can see Spaceships passing overhead, advertisements displaying subliminal messages, and half the people in the street are in fact bug eyed aliens.

He soon finds himself on the run after gunning down a couple of alien cops, then after relieving them of their weapons, going berserk in a bank full of them. His friend Frank soon joins him as they hook up with an underground resistance movement, only to get into a blazing gun battle when more alien cops turn up and storm the place. The two then end up in a massive pitched battle in the aliens main headquarters at the local TV station, as John and Frank try to shut down the signal generator that prevents people from seeing the aliens.

Whilst the film was panned by critics and released direct-to-video here in the UK, it is still regarded as something of a cult favourite amongst John Carpenter fans, and those who enjoy the horror/sci-fi genre. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the film, if you enjoy sci-fi action thrillers and you haven't seen it already I would suggest seeking it out at once.

Best Line : John Nada (Piper) wanders into a bank armed with a shotgun, gun belt and several pistols, having just shot 2 alien cops. After realising most of the banks customers are aliens exclaims "I have come to chew bubblegum and kick ass....and I'm all out of bubblegum".

Overall Marks : 7/10

Terrifying Trivia.

  • The film was apparently based on a short story called "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" by writer Ray Nelson.

  • The screenplay was credited as being written by Frank Armitage, although this was actually director John Carpenter under a pseudonym. The name was a reference to the book "Neuromancer" by William Gibson.

  • The films most memorable line "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum" was not in the script, but was ad-libbed by Roddy Piper.

  • The communicators that the guards use are the P.K.E. meters from Ghostbusters.

  • The fight between John Nada (Roddy Piper) and Frank (Keith David) was only supposed to last 20 seconds, but Piper and David decided to fight it out for real, only faking the punches to the face. Carpenter was so impressed he kept the scene intact.

  • The scene where the TV critic is speaking out against screen violence, has him criticising John Carpenter and fellow director George Romero.

  • John Carpenter makes an unbilled cameo appearance, as one of the rooftop security guards during the end shoot out.

  • Roddy Piper is actually a former professional wrestler, better known as Rowdy Roddy Piper. He turned his hand to appearing in action flicks after going into semi-retirement in 1987, although he still wrestles occasionally at special events, and can often be seen in the US presenting wrestling matches. He continues to appear in low budget action pics to this day.

  • Charactor actor Keith David can usually be found playing gruff police detectives, in feature films and TV movies, such as "Volcano", "Vanishing Point" and "Final Analysis". He also appeared in John Carpenters "The Thing".

  • Meg Foster, who appears as Holly, has appeared in numerous film and TV roles over the years. Her more memorable credits include "The Osterman Weekend", "Blind Fury" and "Leviathan". Fans of 80's cop show Cagney & Lacey may remember her, as she played the role of Detective Cagney in the pilot episode, before being replaced by Sharon Gless.

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