Friday, October 23, 2009

31 Days of Halloween - Day 23 - Movie 1

In "They Live" (1988), a down on his luck construction worker (Roddy Piper) looking for work, stumbles upon a secret instead. Noticing mysterious activities taking place in a church across the street from the homeless camp that he's staying at, he grows curious. After an excessive show of police force raids the church and demolishes the homeless camp, Piper enters the burned out church to find that the contraband being manufactured there were --- sunglasses. After donning a pair of these sunglasses he discovers that they world he lives in is much different than the one he thought he lived in. Subliminal messages to "Obey," and "Marry and Reproduce" are encoded within billboards and the covers and pages of every magazine, book, and sign out there. Not only that, but mingling among us are strange skull faced extraterrestrial ghouls, using human consumption to change our atmosphere into one similar to that of their home world. They are taking over our world not through violence, but capitalism, promising any humans which help advance their goals with wealth and social advancement. They mask their subliminal control of the masses through a signal broadcast from the roof of a cable station which uses a satellite to broadcast this signal all over the world. Piper and an underground movement set out to find and destroy this broadcast signal so that the people of earth will awaken to the truth.

This movie about a collapsing economy and a widening gulf between the rich and the poor as well as a changing climate is surprisingly relevant in today's world. The movie's thin premise and plot is taken very seriously but heavily padded out with excessively long fight scenes, chases, police action scenes, and so on. The characters are given enough short-hand character development to feel a bit well-rounded. Piper's performance is a bit erratic. He has a definite screen presence which often falters when he's delivering his one-liner zingers, which feel juvenile and out of place in a movie that while being a societal satire is very serious in its delivery as opposed to comedic in nature. Most of the time, director, John Carpenter's deliberate pacing feels like a wise choice in setting and maintaining the mood of the movie, but it's still padding which could have been replaced in places with actual character and plot development. When I saw this during it's theatrical release, the fight scene in the alley between Piper and Keith David seemed interminable and brought the movie to a halt. This time, because I was prepared for it, I didn't mind it so much, but a five minute brawl seems excessive and didn't have much purpose in advancing the story.

"They Live" is a flawed by entertaining movie with plenty of places to take a bathroom break without the need to pause the movie.


Raven176 said...

I saw this in the theater when it came out and the fight scene had the place roaring.
Go figure.

John Rozum said...

Everybody seems to love that fight scene but me.

Dane said...

No, I love the movie, but hate the fight scene. You're being kind by describing it as interminable.

Shawn Robare said...

I dig the flick, but I'm a little wary of the plot. It's too big for what the movie has time to deal with which is weird considering all the padding. I think Carpenter works best when he confines his characters and curbs the scope of his stories and world domination by a race of aliens is way too big.

Through the tunnel-vision of appreciating 80s film tropes and pop culture I enjoy the fight sequence, but outside of that is does drag. I guess if you're going to cast a wrestler you have to throw him a bone or two...