With the global political shift towards the right and extremist opinions on the rise, we’re closer to the kind of police state envisaged by George Orwell in 1984 than at any other time since World War II. Visions of dystopian futures have proved popular with film-makers since the release of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis back in 1927. John Carpenter takes these ideas and combines them with themes from the likes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Invaders to create They Live.
Loner John Nada (Roddy Piper) arrives in Los Angeles with only his tools and the clothes on his back. He finds construction work and befriends Frank (Keith David), who takes him to a shanty town where he can find food and shelter. Nada is intrigued by the strange broadcasts which keep appearing on the TV and stumbles upon a church which is a front for a secret organisation. When it’s raided, he retrieves a box full of sunglasses. When he puts a pair on, his world is changed forever.
Made during the Reagan era, Carpenter channels the conspiracy theories and social concerns of the day to imbue They Live with an aura of eerie believability. It’s beautifully crafted and cleverly made but not subtle in the slightest. Roddy Piper in an enthusiastic lead, and whilst his acting leaves a lot to be desired at times this actually works in the film’s favour. They Live is a clever film, mixing action with horror, sci-fi and dystopian drama to produce rip-roaring entertainment.
Subversion: Exposing John Carpenter’s THEY LIVE – A brand retrospective documentary produced by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures and featuring interviews with Associate producer Sandy King, cinematographer Gary Kibbe, actor Peter Jason, actor Robert Grasmere, composer Alan Howarth, stunt coordinator/Ghoul Jeff Imada, author Jonathan Letham, music historian Daniel Schweiger, Blumhouse editor Rebekah McKendry, and visual effects historian Justin Humphreys.
Original EPK: The Making of They Live (1988)
John Carpenter profile – vintage profile of the director
Meg Foster profile – vintage profile of the actress
Roddy Piper profile – vintage profile of the actor
Audio Commentary with John Carpenter & Roddy Piper
Independent Thoughts with John Carpenter – a 2012 interview with director John Carpenter
Woman of Mystery: Interview with Meg Foster – a 2012 interview with actress Meg Foster
Man vs Aliens: Interview with Keith David – a 2012 interview with actor Keith David
Fake commercials in the film 2.34 mins TV spots Photo gallery
They Live will screen in cinemas from 26 October and is released on EST, DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD by Studiocanal on 29 October.