They Live

Year: 1988

Production: Alive Films

Director: John Carpenter

Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster

Screenwriter: Frank Armitage (John Carpenter)

Based on Eight O'Clock in the Morning (1963) by Ray Nelson

94 minutes; Color


After several not very successful films for major studios (Starman [1984], Christine [1983]), Carpenter went independent again for this, his best film for years and, though it did not do much in the marketplace, most popular with the critics. Based on a 6pp story about the USA being controlled by disguised aliens (partly a satirical attack on tv), it expands its original cleverly, and is a model of taut, B-movie narrative skills. In a depression-ridden, conformist USA, Nada (Piper), a laborer, is puzzled by intimations of something not quite right. He accidentally discovers a cache of sunglasses that, when worn, reveal subliminal codes all over the city, urging submission to authority, and also finds that many wealthier-looking citizens are in fact skull-faced aliens, exploiting what to them is a Third-World colony. An excellent formula film, They Live is almost something more ambitious as well - but settles for action.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

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