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They Live

USA 1988
produced by
Larry J. Franco, Andre Blay (executive), Shep Gordon (executive) for Alive Films
directed by John Carpenter
starring Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, George 'Buck' Flower, Peter Jason, Raymond St.Jacques, Jason Robards III, John Lawrence, Susan Barnes, Sy Richardson, Wendy Brainard, Lucille Meredith, Susan Blanchard, Norman Alden, Dana Bratton, John F. Goff, Norm Wilson, Thelma Lee, Stratton Leopold, Rezza Shan, Norman Howell, Larry Franco, Tom Searle, Robert Grasmere, Vince Inneo, Paul Hudson, Jon Paul Jones, Dennis Cosmo Michael, Nancy Gee, Claudia Stanlee, Christine Anne Baur, Eileen Wesson, Gregory J.Barnett, Jimmy Nickerson, Kerry Rossall, Cibby Danila, Jeff Imada, Michelle Costello
screenplay by John Carpenter (as Frank Armitage), based on the short story Eight O'Clock in the Morning by Ray Nelson, music by John Carpenter, Alan Howarth

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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USA, the early 1990's: Society is slowly crumbling, the gap of rich and poor is getting bigger, unemployment has become a major problem, and so has pollution. Nada (Roddy Piper) though is nothing but a poor drifter looking for honest work and a place to sleep - and somehow he has attracted the sympathy of Frank (Keith David), who gets him a job at a construction site and a place to sleep ath the fundown barracks he is staying as well. But one night, the barracks are raided by cops, and Nada only just manages to make an escape. But contrary to all others, he knows what the cops were after - some boxes hidden away in the next-door church that is also the local revolutionaries secret hideout.

However, when Nada the next day pays the church a visit to get behind what's in the boxes ... and he finds them full of - sunglasses. Disappointed he thows the glasses away safe for one he keeps to keep cool - but when he puts them on Nada sees the world quite changed: all the billboards and magazines now carry blunt messages like Buy, Obey, Don't Think or Don't Argue, the city seems to be under surveillance from flying drones, and several people - interestingly only the rich ones - now look like aliens. Slowly Nada begins to put the pieces together and figures the world must have secretly been taken over by capitalist aliens (and with the help of a handful greedy humans too) who now control humankind by hypnotic signals, and the sunglasses enable him to break through hypnosis ...

Eventually though, the aliens realize that Nada now can see, and they send the cops - several of whom are still humans - after him, and suddenly against his will, Nada has become the hunted and has to shoot through legions of aliens and even some humans. Finally, he manages to take a woman who just happens to cross his path, TV-technician Holly (Meg Foster), hostage, who, when he starts rambling on about the suinglasses and everything, totally misinterprets the situation and pushes him out a window - which almost kills Nada (but actually helps him in making a clean getaway) ...

Eventually, Nada manages to convince Frank about the alien conspiracy - using above all his fists - and before long, the two join up with the revolutionaries, and Nada learns that Holly is actually one of them. But even at their first meeting with the revolutionaries, the place is raided, and Frank and Nada only manage to get away thanks to alien technology - which takes them to endless corridors below the city, eventually leading to a TV-studio - from where it seems the hypnotic signal emmanates ...

At the studio, Nada and Frank fetch Holly - she's a TV-technician, remember -, and find the antenna the hypnotic signal is beamed from on the roof of the studio ... when Holly shows her true colours and shoots both Frank and Nada - but just before dieing, Nada manages to blow up the antenna, and suddenly humankind sees through the extraterrestrial hypnosis, sees the aliens for what they really are, and what their world has become - but at the same time, the film fortunately leaves one question open: "Will the world become a better place because of this, or will humans just mess up again once another alien race offers them wealth ?"

 

One of director John Carpenters best (and most underappreciated) films: A anti-capitalist satire disguised as a sci-fi B-movie not all that different from anti-Commie films from the 1950's onwards. And since Carpenter primarily tries to entertain and not to hammer home his message, the film works like a charm as a tongue-in-cheek actioner with sci-fi elements that (for a change) does not insult the audience's intelligence.

Definitely recommended.

 

By the way, many of this film's key elements have later found their way into the much overrated Matrix-series of films, but stripped of all satirical content - which makes one ask why ?

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD