31 Days of Halloween 2016 #9 – They Live
I haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t like They Live, much less anybody who enjoys their movies with a side of social commentary. Admittedly, the movie stops short of diving into its main theme, but the premise makes it original and legendary. With a few more bucks, John Carpenter probably could have made this really, really amazing, but he pulled a Roger Corman and accomplished what he wanted on a shoestring budget. He makes us believe aliens have taken over with a couple of shots of some billboards, alien masks, and a flying alien thing.
John Carpenter feels inspired most of the time, and does good work on this movie. The black and white works. The visuals all work. The hidden message works. The effects work to support the tone. They’re not realistic but they’re not supposed to be. Carpenter makes it all work. A lot of his movies have this strong foreboding sense or purpose, led by good main characters. Escape From New York, In the Mouth of Madness, and They Live all have great characters.
Rowdy Roddy Piper can’t really act, but his character is still awesome. He’s the everyman in this movie, and has a few memorable lines to win over the audience. It works. The visuals themselves are minimalistic and spooky. I think the black and white helps that feeling. Keith David as Frank does well too in the character department and I think his contributions to the movie are undervalued.
I wouldn’t think too hard about the plot. There are plenty of plot holes and unexplained stupidness, but it’s entertainment folks. Maybe it’s trying to summon the power of 50s sci-fi, which does some of the same things.
Some of the script is weak and can’t help the characters, but a lot of it is for fan-service. Some of the scenes really make no sense. The fight scene between Roddy Piper and Frank has no point other than from an entertainment perspective. Most of this movie is controlled by John Carpenter. He wrote the script. He directed. He did the musical score. It’s all him, for better or worse. I’m curious if it wouldn’t be something more if someone else contributed to the main content of the movie.
Overall, this is a good movie. It’s a classic. Above all, it’s entertaining. It has the subtle social commentary you love in movies like Night of the Living Dead, but it’s a little more literal about it. I think the weaknesses don’t overshadow it and many of them are nitpicks or complaints about the budget. You wouldn’t really complain about those things watching a Roger Corman movie, so I won’t complain about them here. In the end, John Carpenter is a talented person. Nuff said.
31 Days of Halloween 2016
31. Young Frankenstein (1974)
30. Jason X (2001)
29. Cloverfield (2008)
28. The Monster Squad (1987)
27. Bad Moon (1996)
26. The Haunting (1963)
25. Splinter (2008)
24. Frenzy (1972)
23. Aggression Scale (2012)
22. The Exorcist III
21. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1963)
20. Silver Bullet (1985)
19. Joy Ride (2001)
18. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
The Funhouse (1981) by Tobe Hooper Shin Godzilla (2016)
16. Videodrome (1983)
15. Re-Animator (1985)
14. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
13. Cube (1997)
12. Evil Dead
11. Day of the Dead (1985)
Tales of Halloween (2015) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
9. They Live (1988)
8. The Innocents (1961)
7. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
6. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
5. I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990)
4. Hatchet (2006)
3. The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
2. Halloween II
1. Silence of the Lambs