They Live (R) - 1988 - Runtime: 98 minutes
Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David
Director: John Carpenter
Holy cow this movie was pretty fantastic! I was recommended this by one of my old co-workers. It's very much a B-movie, but it has a lot of heart and isn't afraid to lay on the cheese. I thought I would end up rolling my eyes, but I was laughing all along and enjoying Carpenter's diatribe on censorship, conformity and consumerism.
Roddy Piper (yes "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, the wrestler!) plays George Nada, a down on his luck drifter who travels to LA to look for some work. Luckily, he meets Frank Armitage (played by the always reliable Keith David. Seriously, if you need a villain? Keith David's got it. If you need somebody for a comedy? You got it. Veteran video game voice over man? Oh, David's got it. This man is one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood. He has 11 movies in production right now! Maggie said he's the obscure Samuel L. Jackson. Very apt). But Nada starts to wonder about what's happening around him - the police seem to break up any group activity and he finally figures out what's happening when he stumbles upon a pair of sunglasses that reveal the truth. Most of the elite, upper class white citizens are really aliens who are controlling every single facet of human life. It's all done through subliminal advertising and every single product has some sort of OBEY message. This is all done to great effect - when he puts on the sunglasses, the movie turns to black and white and every thing is so sterile and plain with simple messages like "Marry and Reproduce" and money says "This is Your God." And of course the aliens look as hideous as they do on the poster.
Of course this an action B-movie starring a wrestler, so Nada takes it upon himself to right what is wrong the only way he can: with his fists. There is a somewhat unintentionally hilarious fight scene where Piper fights Keith David in order so he can force the glasses on him. It's like a ten minute fight scene, no joke! They keep falling down and then getting up - it's exactly like a wrestling match, but the end result is the dude has to put the glasses on. It's great! That one scene sums up the rest of the movie - it does take itself seriously when it comes to the message of consumerism and censorship, but it's all portrayed by this everyman drifter who only knows how to fight. I have to say, Carpenter mixes it up pretty well for a very entertaining movie. It does start out awful slow - it's takes about a half hour before Nada realizes what's happening around him. But it's a minor quibble to an otherwise great sci-fi B-movie!
Rating: Rent It!