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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25.93%
Worth A Look40.74%
Average: 16.05%
Pretty Bad: 2.47%
Total Crap: 14.81%

3 reviews, 63 user ratings

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They Live
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by Brian McKay

"Vintage pre-suck Carpenter"
4 stars

Remember when John Carpenter didn't suck? Remember "The Fog", "The Thing", and the original "Haloween"? Well, let me take you on another journey back to the days long before the pall of "Ghost of Mars" fell upon this director's turbulent career.

"They Live" tells the story of down on his luck homeless construction worker named Nada ("Rowdy" Roddy Piper). One day, he stumbles across a pair of sunglasses and decides to try them on. He is shocked to see that all around him are hidden messages concealed in billboards, magazines, etc that say "OBEY" or "SUBMIT" or "CONSUME PRODUCTS". To make things worse, not all of the people around him are human. With the glasses on, he can see that several people on the streets of LA (mostly rich people or cops) are actually ass-ugly aliens. Yes folks, we have been ruled by them for years, and didn't even know it!

Nada tries to warn others, but of course everyone thinks he's insane, including his fellow homeless buddy Frank (Keith David). Frank refuses to look through the glasses, until Nada dukes it out with him in an alley and forces him to put them on and look around.

Nada is freaked out at first, so he of course goes around with a shotgun on an alien-hunting spree, where he utters the film's most memorable line "I am here to kick ass and chew bubblegum - and I'm all out of bubblegum."

Eventually, he and Frank find out that the sunglasses were made by an underground resistance faction. They are recruited by the rebels to find and destroy the alien brain wave transmitter thingamajig that is concealing the aliens and all their nefarious subliminal advertising from the unwashed masses.

Let's face it. This is a B-movie with B+/A- studio funding. It's still a lot of fun though. Piper, while no actor, still has that professional wrestler charisma to carry him through, and that's enough. Keith David has always been one of my fave character actors and doesn't disappoint here. The ending is a bit of an anti-climactic letdown, and I've never seen people standing around more in a gunfight and still not get hit. However, the alien invasion/subliminal message theme is a fun one, and Carpenter, while not at the top of his game, does manage to deliver up the goods.

Apparently the (rent) alien invaders (this) never read the studies (movie) that proved that (it) subliminal advertising (ain't) doesn't work (bad).

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 08/14/02 10:09:48
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2016 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/21/17 morris campbell no this here sucks 1 stars
2/17/15 Mongoria Flaxseed Suck an anal wart, Sommersby. This here's a classic. 5 stars
1/29/15 david froman pipers best movie by far 3 stars
3/05/13 Son of Celluloid I couldn;t disagree more. One of my all time favorites. 5 stars
2/18/13 the truth VanDammit!!! I'VE HAD IT WITH YOUR LIES!!!!!!! Care to join me in the ALLEY for BUBBLEGUM!? 4 stars
7/07/11 Dr.Lao Rowdy Roddy Piper's best film 3 stars
4/06/10 art JOHN CARPENTER is THE master of FABLE"S! V 3 stars
12/05/08 jarrod Cult classic. Go buy it. 5 stars
11/10/08 Otis Would have made a better "Twilight Zone" episode, but some entertaining scenery chewin' 4 stars
12/07/07 Adrian Better than chewing bubblegum. 5 stars
7/08/07 Tom Servo Yet another reason why I hate Yuppies! Great plot, and all around B movie goodness- B+ 5 stars
5/26/07 Jim W Great fight scene in the alley!! I loved it though it is a B+ movie. 5 stars
10/25/06 Kelly Ha. Tacky to the extreme, but nonetheless quite entertaining and a good solid plot, too~! 4 stars
9/05/06 --- Piper perfect for this role-great campy sci-fi "so bad its good" flick 5 stars
5/06/06 dionwr Great ideas, lousy movie 3 stars
5/05/06 Uri Lessing Roddy Rowdy Subversive Material 5 stars
5/02/06 PaulBryant Mildly interesting, worth little contemplation 3 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A Better than Hell Comes to Frogtown and Body Slam combined! 5 stars
5/02/06 EricDSnider no thank you 3 stars
5/02/06 David Cornelius Goss needs to see this NOW 5 stars
5/02/06 William Goss Still haven't seen this yet. 4 stars
5/02/06 HBS-SH strider in a wheelchair 4 stars
3/29/06 Fabrizio Negri very funny movie, a good parody of 80's america. 4 stars
9/22/05 Fritz Even in his lesser movies, Carpenter goes beyond typical genre crap. Case in point. . . 4 stars
9/16/05 drippy One of Carpenter's worst...and that's saying something! 1 stars
8/25/05 Copper Just an all-around terrible movie...what was the deal with that 90-minute alley fight?????? 1 stars
8/18/05 ES Rowdy Roddy and Keith David how the hell did these guys not wind up super-stars? 4 stars
6/22/05 DM Some poorly staged gunfights but a still a great premise with funny dialogue. 4 stars
1/17/05 Jeff Anderson Very entertaining and lots of fun. Roddy Piper is a hoot in the lead. What more do you want 5 stars
1/13/05 Tom Benton Less-intelligent Carpenter film could be better, but it's entertaining. 3 stars
11/18/04 Jews for Hitler Piper kicks some alien ass.... 4 stars
10/23/04 LilyM Loved the fight and some of the funny lines. The rest? Not so much. 3 stars
8/21/04 Josh Standlee I'd watch it everyday, once I get the DVD! 5 stars
6/20/04 Spiderfan50 "PUT ON THE FREAKIN' GLASSES" HAHA, more of a comedy than a sci-fi but good none the less 4 stars
4/11/04 American Slasher Goddess Okay,but this is the point where Carpenter starts to lose it. 3 stars
2/08/04 toast Great sci-fi metaphor for late 20th century sociopolitical U.S. 5 stars
1/30/04 Jack Sommersby Promising premise quickly gives way to tedium. 1 stars
1/09/04 John memorable sci fi action movie 4 stars
12/23/03 dave This is the best thing this side of piper's pit! 5 stars
12/08/03 Sammy Better than I expected, but it could have been longer in the time department 5 stars
12/07/03 Boris Smith I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And im all outta bubblegum. Saves the film 3 stars
10/31/03 Robert I thought it was pretty good 5 stars
10/30/03 Alan Camp Classic 4 stars
10/19/03 R.W. Welch Nice premise but so-so follow through. Just passable acting. 3 stars
10/18/03 uglie fun, not boring, saw it on AMC 4 stars
9/28/03 JJ Well, it starts out fairly good but very cheesy towards the end. 3 stars
9/23/03 KingNeutron Definitely one of the classics. Always worth the rental. 4 stars
3/22/03 roulettedares The greatest movie ever made, bar none. Not even Big Trouble in Little China can defeat it. 5 stars
3/04/03 Jack Sommersby Good beginning; abysmal follow-through. Still, it's never boring. 2 stars
10/18/02 Flynn The aliens Piper killed were minding their own business. 4 stars
8/24/02 ^ZuLu^ An 80s classic. If you're in for SciFi go have a look! 5 stars
8/16/02 Klute Great silly fun 4 stars
6/19/02 Charles Tatum Dull, the beginning of Carpenter's downfall 2 stars
6/02/02 Jim ... And I'm all out of bubblegum! 5 stars
5/31/02 Janx Pretty good for a B movie Sci-fi flick. "Rowdy" Roddy is decent in the lead role. 4 stars
5/22/02 Kyle Wow. Lots of fun, but the ending lets you down a bit. 5 stars
10/25/01 shep_ramsay i'm here to chew bubble gum and kick ass and i'm all out off bubble gum 5 stars
8/19/01 Monster W. Kung Good idea, so-so film. Has its moment and overall it's worth a look, but falls flat. 3 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Carpenter's puttin' perfume on a pig! 4 stars
3/25/01 Blubberbot A good movie with the worst fight scene ever. 4 stars
6/21/00 Ulatekk A cult classic! A paranoid vision of alien invasion. 4 stars
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  02-Sep-1988 (R)
  DVD: 25-Mar-1998



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