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Reed Alexander's Horror Review of 'They Live' (1988)

Fanboy review...

By Reed AlexanderPublished 2 months ago 3 min read

This movie is fucking brilliant and that's a hill I'll die on!

SPOILERS!!! Though seriously, can you call yourself a horror fan if you haven't already seen this gem?

Yeah, the production quality is pretty bad. I mean, it has a similar feel to The Stuff (1985). Even with the whole global conspiracy thing. They're very similar movies about consumerism. They both deal with some sort of weird alien invasion. They Live was just a smarter take on the concept and not intended to be a horror comedy like The Stuff... But They Live is pretty funny, though unintentionally which is why it often gets a bad wrap. It's hammy, silly, and overall kinda a trash film.

Here's the thing, John Carpenter's plot is actually really smart social commentary. Sure, the production value is low, but GODDAMN the plot is so fucking smart. We're talking about the end of the Reagan era, when the man had trashed the economy and let loose unparalleled corporate greed. Everyone was broke except the rich who were bathing in cash, and society in general was pretty shitty. This movie is about our capitalist class and their inherent control over all we say and do. Even what we think. Sure the movie is about a grand conspiracy of aliens controlling the market and the government, but the capitalist class is so alienated from the common American that they might as well be invaders from outer space. This movie really captured the working class struggle of the 80s. I especially love the social commentary about the humans that sell out the rest of humanity for prosperity. Just like a good conservative. Screw the poor, screw the needy, so long as I got mine.

This doesn't even touch the commentary about consumerism. EAT. BUY. FUCK. OBEY. You are the product and your candy ass is for sale. Where do you think Shepard Fairey got the idea from? Same things. Same soulless corporate hellscape filled with billboards and targeted marketing. Honestly, this movie would be considered 'woke' by modern standards. I especially love the scene where they show you money and it says "This is your god."

But if we're being completely honest with ourselves, holy crap this movie was hammy as fuck. Don't get it twisted, it's still fucking brilliant, but good god is it hammy. I mean, the main character is plaid by Rowdy Piper. But you know, Piper did a decent job. Nothing award-winning, but good enough for horror. And he had some of the most memorable lines in horror history. He was every bit as good as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in his last movie. Sure it's hammy but forgivably so and pretty appropriate for the tone of the movie. If The Rock gets a pass, Piper should too.

And that alleyway fight scene. Fucking legendary! Piper and Keith David just wailing on each other for a good five minutes. You start to get the feeling that some of those bruises are really. It's second only to the hammer scene from Oldboy (2003).

So, yeah the production value is shit. I mean, the alien costumes are almost laughable. The alien drones are downright embarrassingly bad FXs. But the movie still manages to be SO damn good in spite of all that. And you know, it's not THAT bad. Maybe a bit riff worthy, sure, but good enough to carry the brilliant plot. Honestly, I want to see John Carpenter remake this with a budget. I mean, The Invasion (2007) worked for a big box office production. No reason they can't do that here.

This is basically required viewing for all Horror Heads. Not just a must-see, but a "I'll come to your fucking house, duct-tape you to a chair, and staple your eyelids to your forehead." I'm not gonna give you a choice. You are hereby required to watch this movie.

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About the Creator

Reed Alexander

I'm the foulmouthed horror movie critic. I post new reviews every Sunday, so stay tuned =D

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  • Chris Riggio2 months ago

    Great article Reed, I love this movie and pretty much everything else Carpenter did from the mid 70s to late 80s

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