They Live (1988)

More John Carpenter! And good news, the entire soundtrack to They Live is on YouTube! Listen away!

I didn't really like this film when I first watched it. But lo, it has grown on me since then in ways I didn't expect. Now I like it more. These things happen.

I think I was initially thrown by They Live because of its shifting tones. When it begins, the film looks like it's going to be some gritty portrayal of the lives of a group homeless people. Roddy Piper is included in this group, playing a tight-lipped Canadian construction worker. They never actually specify his nationality, but Piper makes no effort to conceal his accent, so I shall assume. He also wears plaid, so, you know. Anyway, we spend some time with these people before Roddy notices something weird going on in a church. Next thing you know, shady government peeps have destroyed the Hooverville and our hero has gained access to a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see the evil aliens that live among us and control our lives. At this point, Roddy abruptly transforms from silent drifter into profane, gun-wielding, sayer of nonsensical one-liners. The film continues to jump around crazily. These abrupt changes in tone, plot and character gave me a case of cinematic whiplash that I didn't recover from until after the film ended. But recover I did and now I like many things about They Live. I like how Carpenter didn't attempt to compensate for or hide the fact that the star of his film is a professional wrestler. Instead of trying to stretch Piper's limited acting abilities to unsuccessful lengths, Carpenter allowed his actor to give a performance he was comfortable with. I think the social issues explored in the film are expressed in a cool and suitably angry way. I think the alien makeup effects are excellent.

Also, there is a fight scene. It is completely amazing. I will say no more.

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