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'They Came From Cleveland'
They Live by John Carpenter
© 2013 James LaFond
1988, 93 minutes
This is the best low-budget 1980s flick I have seen. Yes, the sound effects and gunfights are lame. The acting ranges from some horrible extra-as-supporting-actor moments, to some really good work by Keith David and Meg Foster, and the black actor with the French last name who plays the street preacher.
Roddy Piper, 1980s pro-wrestling villain, was surprisingly good, and had some great lines, which he apparently came up with like, ‘Life is a bitch, she’s in heat!’ and ‘I’ve come here to chew gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of gum!’
Roddy and Keith have a very cool, brutal—and in some ways realistic—alley brawl that is truly epic. During the course of this scene Roddy throws a realistic jab with bad intentions, and I was reminded that he had been a boxer before getting into pro wrestling.
The movie begins with Piper’s character moving to a west coast city to find work after being laid off. Quite by accident, but due to his lowly outsider perspective, he realizes that humanity is being controlled by imposter aliens. The aliens are using subliminal print messages like those used in the 1950s in American movie theaters to sell coke and popcorn.
In possession of a cheap pair of bull-shit resistant sunglasses the hero wages a doomed conflict against the earth’s masters. The alien messages are Obey. Submit. Consume. Buy. Conform. Watch T.V. and, on the dollar bill, This is Your God. They Live predicts drones and the U.S. police state, and is something of a polemic on the annihilation of consciousness and the domestication of man as a tax beast.
This movie is surprisingly good. I particularly enjoyed the interview with John Carpenter about the genesis of the project in which he states, ‘Aliens should be evil’, ‘Don’t get in the way of the rich’ and ‘Fuck that!’. Carpenter is a film maker with beliefs, and this film was largely a rejection of the type of capitalism that modern intellectuals are just now beginning to speak against. As Carpenter states in the retrospective interview, ‘The eighties never ended. They are here. They’re making more money than ever, and they are still among us.’
They live.
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