Despite it’s cult status, I knew very little of They Live as I settled down to watch it. Having seen a few John Carpenter films, I figured I’d at least get an interesting soundtrack, and hopefully a decent film to boot.
I guess I got the soundtrack? Sounds harsh, but They Live doesn’t do enough with it’s central conceit to make things all that interesting. It’s such a sound idea too; one that could be even more powerful now. Roddy Piper (of WWE fame) doesn’t do a terrible job as the every man stumbling across a major conspiracy. You get the feeling the role was somewhat tailored to his strengths, especially when it comes to the action. He and costar Keith David have a particularly drawn out fight in an alley that’s full of moves I’m pretty someone who isn’t a wrestler wouldn’t use. It’s good fun though.
As an aside, I first heard the famous ‘chew bubblegum and kick ass’ quote in a Duke Nukem on PS1. Turns out it was here first. Piper adlibbed it, but later variations make it flow better. Good to hear it’s origin though. Feel like I’ve ticked something off a list somewhere with that one.
They Live is a rebellious film, and it’s outrage at society is clear. It makes some solid points too. But it isn’t as scathing as it could have been, and clumsily skips over points that could have had far more impact. How it acquired cult status is clear; a powerful message with memorable visuals. I just can’t shake a feeling it could have done more, but it does make me look at things in a slightly different light. Now go and spend your money and keep being part of the corporate machine!