A rugged recluse stumbles upon a pair of sunglasses that make the deadly truth about the world, visible. Skull-faced ghouls make up the abundant population of the social elite and subliminal messages are lulling the public into submission.
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THEY LIVE is a decidedly slack enterprise on a modest budget. Absolutely no consideration is played to anything like credulity. We are not asked to take it particularly seriously. Except that, you know, we are. This is by no means a heavy-handed political statement, but it is a forceful one. Manufactured consent. Bien sûr. Hard not to notice the impact of its sardonic aesthetic on the ADBUSTERS graphic design M.O.
They Live is still one of the finest caustic attacks on the oppressive nature of greed and conformity of American capitalism. It may be often too silly and campy to be outright venomous, preferring a more flippant and sarcastic tone, while its scant runtime means an imbalance of great action set pieces and not a longer stick-it-to-the-man final act. Yet, this is Carpenter's most purified example of politicalizing.
As an angsty teen, I latched on to "They Live's" anti-consumerist theme: the mainstream media is trying to keep us asleep, man! As an adult in 2017, reality is so much more complicated - but the beauty of Carpenter's film is that it holds up to contemporary readings. "They Live" is a smart, shrewd, and deliriously fun rollercoaster ride with a message of class division that resonates even more in the Trump Era.
The potential of this movie is unfortunately almost entirely eclipsed by '80s action movie cliches and the inescapable irony of a professional wrestler acting lead in a movie with an anti-consumerist message. The themes are more relevant than ever in the Occupy age; it's just too bad the rest of this movie has aged so poorly after not even a quarter of a century.
The perfect blend of anarchic pop-satire, B-movie pastiche and the usual Carpenter quirk of transposing the recognisable style and iconography of the western genre onto something more relevant and contemporary. They Live also best illustrates Carpenter's somewhat underrated ability to block and edit sequences in a way that communicates the story on a visual level, as well as being exceedingly intelligent & cinematic.
an eye opening masterpiece by the Master that is incredibly relevant today. a rare politically minded film (expertly masked as a b-movie) that hits hard right on target. don't believe the hype and fight the power!