They Live

A drifter stumbles on sunglasses that allow him to see the truth: a world filled with subliminal messages and controlled by malevolent forces.

Year: 1988
Certificate: 18
Runtime: 1hr 34m
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Roddy PiperKeith DavidMeg FosterGeorge “Buck” FlowerPeter JasonRaymond St. Jacques

Information Page:

I came here to chew bubblegum and kick some ass… I’m all out of bubblegum!

There was a lot of excitement on our social media accounts when “They Live” was added to Netflix at the start of April so, as usual, I added it to my list. I’ll be honest – I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it yet it’s classed as a cult classic. I’ve had varying degrees of success with ‘cult’ movies – some are great and I can instantly tell why, others… not so much. So I went in with an open mind.

The synopsis for the film is that a drifter looking for work finds some sunglasses that allow him to see the world as it really is: filled with subliminal messages, mind control and weird looking, skinless people. It sounds very weird. It also sounds very cool and right up my street.

The drifter, Nada, is played by the late WWF (I’m old, I refuse to say “WWE”) wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (real name Roderick George Toombs). I’ll jump straight to the point: he’s not a great actor. He might have got away with it in the ring where the majority of his acting was fighting, but not so much in a feature length movie.

Not a lot happens in the first hour of the film and there is a risk of falling asleep as the music score feels like one continuous 80s synth track. It’s quite soothing, which I personally didn’t think worked with what we were seeing on the screen. There’s an undertone of weirdness going on, and once he finds the glasses and sees the real world, it just doesn’t seem to hit home. I honestly think the music caused that. The story itself is clever; the idea being that he had been “awakened” and is now able to see all the posters and magazines covered in messages trying to control people. He can see the real people too…

The “real people”, normally, look like us but with the glasses on we can see that they don’t have skin on their faces and the muscles and full eyeballs are visible. But it turns out that these “people” can tell when they’ve been seen and use a special watch to radio through that there’s a troublemaker. This is where the film gets a bit more interesting, but it takes a long time to get there.

There are some great lines in the film that made me chuckle but these are few and far between. The action sequences are nicely done although the 10 minute wrestling/fight scene was somewhat cheesy. There’s also an interesting twist towards the end of the film but after over an hour of nothing much happening it’s just not quite enough to redeem itself.

Overall it was an OK film and I can see why it got cult status. The story is very good, the underlying “us vs them” was clear and the ending was quite clever. I just feel like it would have been better if it was 45 minutes shorter. Although I am tempted to source the book that it’s based on…

Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!

About MaFt

Film and TV fan, creator of New On Netflix (UK, USA, Australia and Canada), dad of two amazing children, code geek and passionate about autism.

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