VIDEO: They Live (1988)

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Cecil takes a look at John Carpenter’s classic sci-fi horror film They Live.

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  • Alexa

    Huh, Obscurus Lupa just did a video on this movie. Have you seen it, and if you did what did you think of her analysis?

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      We’ve disagreed before. I think she is entitled to her opinion, it just wasn’t a film that worked for her.

      • Alexa

        Fair enough. While I do like the message and look of the film, I can’t help but agree that its kind of slow. I know its his thing to do that in some movies, but here it did drag a bit. Are you going to do a vid on Prince of Darkness at some point? Curious about your opinion on that…

        • Cecil_Trachenburg

          Prince of Darkness probably later in the year.

  • I kind of love this movie. It is just one of those super well structured science fiction as social commentary films that is fun to watch, but not retarded. It is delightful.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Its a blast

  • Gallen_Dugall

    Outstanding and as always you get better in different ways each time you do one of these. I would note that back in the very early days of television they’d put ads in the shows because the shows were live and that was the only way to do it. It carried over into the early recorded television days for a short time but ultimately it was cheaper to pay for the production of the commercial once, and separately from the air time, than to pay for for the whole shebang each time. On the bright side commercials are much better entertainment value in themselves than they were now that the option to mute is universal and skipping ahead is becoming increasingly common.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks!

  • Muthsarah

    John Carpenter is probably my favorite filmmaker of the 1980s. Whether or not his films are my favorites or not, I don’t know (because that was the most fun decade in film), but he gets bonus points for working with ever-shrinking budgets and making cheap movies look great. They Live is probably his most most-with-the-least, or at least the most least. It’s just such a simple movie, with almost no flash anywhere; first time I saw it, I only kinda liked it, as, given its reputation, I was expecting something crazy, instead of being such a low-key, wry satire. If you go in thinking of it as a low-budget movie, it’s just phenomenal how well it turned out.

    Oh, and that Hawaii 5-0 thing MAY just have been the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I just…hate it on so many levels.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      His run in the 80s is legendary. You would be hard pressed to find another director that made that many groundbreaking classic films in a row. It’s sad how he has been treated by the hollywood machine.

      Yeah, the Hawaii 5-0 thing is horrible. Its like that bit from Wayne’s World only not done as a joke.

  • Thomas Stockel

    First of all, I think it was very cool of Carpenter to do what he did for those homeless. That shows amazing class and kindness. He can’t solve the world’s ills but he gave those people a job and meals and that was wonderful.

    As to the film, it hasn’t aged well for me. It’s message just seems a little too heavy handed. Rich people are bad, ’nuff said. Just seems a little simplistic.

    Anyway, I loved the review, Cecil. I knew next to nothing about the film before this.

    • Muthsarah

      I don’t interpret the movie as an anti-rich screed. It’s fundamentally anti-conformist and anti-authoritarian. People are being subtly controlled into following the aliens’ wishes, to be docile and live their lives the way the aliens want them to, and they don’t even realize it’s happening. People are sleeping through their lives, not living as individuals, but as unwitting slaves. It’s not anti-rich. It’s not about property and who has it, and how much, it’s about how people try to control others.

      One of my favorite things about the movie is that Keith David’s character fiercely resists Nada’s attempts to get him to confirm to Nada’s wishes (by putting on the glasses), and Nada has to try to beat him up to get him to do what HE wants him to do. The movie’s all about the power to control what others see and feel and think. And the movie doesn’t end with the aliens being killed or driven off the planet, but by their illusion being shattered. Humanity has to wake up first and see the world for what it really is. You can easily interpret it as anti-statist, or anti-consumerist, or just anti-conformist, asking the audience to consider how THEY may be being controlled by others as well, and whether they truly want what they think they want, or if that’s just what others want them to want.

      • Grumpy Pants

        Well said sir!!

      • Cecil_Trachenburg

        You nailed it.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Exactly, it showed how much of a class act he is. A lot of todays directors wouldn’t even consider doing something like that. I wonder if any of those people were able to get back on their feet after that.

      Thanks!

  • MichaelANovelli

    Nice!

    I think we used a clip from this film in my first episode. Someone should check that…

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Going back to the roots!

  • Grumpy Pants

    Hey, I voted for Regan and I still love this movie! BTW, you forgot to mention the damn commercial I had to watch just to watch the damn review… :P Anyway, if you make a screengrab of that shot of Kim Kardashian as an alien available as a download, I’ll, I dunno, buy you a hooker or something. That was awesome.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      lol you got me

      I’ll figure out a way to get the Kardalien picture up

      Thanks!

  • Sykes

    Great video about one of my all-time faves. But then, I am an unabashed Carpenter fan through and through.

    Thanks Cecil.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks! I love Carpenter as well. I hope he can make at least one more classic before he completely retires. He has two that he has been trying to make for years but can’t get the funding. How depressing is it that a director of his caliber can’t get funding for a film?

      • Sykes

        Ridiculously depressing. I’d also love one last real Carpenter flick, but I fear it probably won’t ever happen. Ending his career on a director-for-hire project wasn’t what I would have expected.

        • The_Stig

          Very sad. I’d love him to team up with Kurt Russell just one more time, maybe get Keith David involved too, just for one last hurrah.

          • Sykes

            John Carpenter’s Escape From Earth…it’s not too late!

          • The_Stig

            I wasn’t really talking about a Snake Plisskin movie, especially considering how the last one turned out.

  • Moppet

    I adore this film, the one liners, the fights and just the general tone. The theme that plays anytime our hero is walking about. It has a rich tangible atmosphere I love to just sit back and let myself melt into. You’re right though, if he was sickened by consumerism at the time, the modern landscape must pop blood vessels in his head daily.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      The whole movie just plays out so wonderfully. It never drags and has one of the most satisfying ending ever.

  • Ratlike

    It’s funny how large budgets limit film makers more than small budgets. The larger the budget the higher the expectation for a hit and the less control the director has. You have to please everybody and thus lose control over the film to bean-counters.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      There’s the old saying (I’m paraphrasing) that hollywood always ignores:
      “when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one”.

      • Muthsarah

        “…But they’ll still pay to see your $#!++y movie if you market it enough, and that’s what’s important.”

  • Sand Ripper

    I like Carpenter a lot, but I think the passage of time has caused people to overrate this movie.

  • Tony Thurisaz

    As an addition to the advertising thing, they’ve now digitally altered reruns of TV shows to insert more product placement. How fucking insane is that?

  • nowhere

    I think the movie also satirizes conspiracy theories that seem to result from a desire to believe that all the ills of the world are caused by some nefarious, hidden outside group rather than considering the possibility that it’s just us doing it to ourselves. I feel it also comments on the fact that some things which most people would have considered to be crazy conspiracy theories have actually been revealed to be true.

    One of my favorite things about the film is the way that after Piper’s character has the truth revealed to him he has trouble coming up with an effective way of changing things. Too many movies seem to think that a lot of gunfire and bloodshed by one ass-kickin’ hero can solve any problem – no matter how complex.

    Despite being 18 when this film came out I only saw it years after its release when I caught it on a local TV station that played unedited copies of movies late in the evening. That’s also how I first saw one of my favorite Carpenter films in 1985 – Dark Star. Same TV station, same showtime!