Friday Afternoon Movie: They Live

It’s been quite a hiatus for the FAM. Why that was, no one knows. Perhaps the FAM was in hiding, on the lam after a particularly large methamphetamine deal went decidedly South; or maybe the FAM has been kept in a dank, dingy basement for the past two or three weeks, the unwilling plaything of a cruel and demented mistress. Like I said, we’ll never know. But the FAM is back, albeit with a gaunt visage and a faraway look in its eyes. Poor, poor FAM.

To ring in its return we present to you, our adoring, viewing audience Rowdy Roddy Piper’s breakout film, They Live; directed by the one and only John Carpenter. Now, I realize that there has been a particularly heavy dose of Carpenter on the FAM as of late and, rest assured, this will be the end. For a while. Hopefully. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. They Live is the story of a young man named George Nada who comes into the possession of a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the truth lying under the surface of our perceived reality. That truth being that the world is controlled by skull-faced aliens who jerk us about like puppets through the use of hidden, subliminal messages. This lifting of the veil terrifies Mr. Nada and he is encouraged to save the human race by masticating chewing gum and “kicking ass”. He is partnered with Kieth David — who previously appeared in Mr. Carpenter’s The Thing — who plays the part of Frank Armitage. Frank Armitage is also the pseudonym that Carpenter used when he wrote the script and is also the name of a character in The Dunwich Horror by one Howard Phillips Lovecraft. The story of They Live a has equally pulpy roots, the plot being taken from both “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” by Ray Nelson, originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and a story called “Nada” from a comic entitled Alien Encounters by both FantCo and Eclipse.

It is no surprise then that They Live turned out the way it did. This is a classic sort of quick and dirty sci-fi, with brash, one-liner-spewing heroes and a central premise masquerading as social commentary. But you know what? As cheesy as They Live can be — um, Rowdy Roddy Piper stars in this — it is still fantastic, a delectable morsel of Carpenter’s truly over-the-top films that are both unabashedly silly and truly enjoyable. It is mindless, yet guilt-free entertainment and sometimes, that’s all one need.

8 Responses to “Friday Afternoon Movie: They Live”

  1. Nadya Says:

    I love this movie. It’s one of my favorite Carpenter flicks. Oh man, that fight scene that goes on FOREVER… so great.

  2. Kevin Says:

    It also contains the greatest fight scene of all time. All other acts of man on man violence ever committed to celluloid pale in comparison to the combat nirvana in this movie.

  3. Chris L Says:

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. So. Good.

    It’s MOSTLY mindless – but I think for all the masquerading social commentary there’s a bit of real stuff in there, too. (The whole shanty town, for example.)

    But yeah. Um. That fight scene! Incredible.

  4. Patrick Says:

    Also, a bit more trivia about the film. It served as the inspiration for Shepard Fairey’s iconic “OBEY” campaign.

  5. Matthieu G. Says:

    I’ve been a fan of FAM since the begining, but you’ve just hitted the jackpot ! Carpenter is a GOD, and this is probably one of is masterpiece. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper + machine gun in a TV studio = priceless.

  6. PMMJ Says:

    Watching it again recently, I was totally surprised how the movie’s economic downturn mirrored our own. Or something.

  7. The F'n Jem'Hadar Says:

    Long Live the FAM!

  8. Pigskin Pete Says:

    I’m throwing down the gauntlet of the Rowdy One’s oeuvre with the FAM. “Hell Comes to Frogtown.” Youtube it. Watch it. Love it.