HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Morfalous, Les
Dreambuilders
Everything Went Fine
Lux AEterna
Rum Runners
Fairy and the Devil, The
Mad God
Outside the Law
I Remember Mama
Superman Unbound
Lawrence of Belgravia
House Across the Lake, The
Wonder Park
Hornsby e Rodriguez
Operation Mincemeat
5 Kung Fu Daredevil Heroes
Scoob!
Earwig
Offseason
Peau Douce, La
Double Indemnity
Na Cha and the Seven Devils
Deep Murder
Superman vs. the Elite
Adam Project, The
Osamu Tezuka's Last Mystery of the 20th Century
Horse, La
Buffaloed
Train Robbers, The
Let Sleeping Cops Lie
Abominable
Funeral, The
Burning Sea, The
Godzilla Singular Point
Ace of Aces
Innocents, The
Beast and the Magic Sword, The
Last Hard Men, The
Found Footage Phenomenon, The
Night Trap
   
 
Newest Articles
3 From Arrow Player: Sweet Sugar, Girls Nite Out and Manhattan Baby
Little Cat Feat: Stephen King's Cat's Eye on 4K UHD
La Violence: Dobermann at 25
Serious Comedy: The Wrong Arm of the Law on Blu-ray
DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery and More on Blu-ray
Monster Fun: Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror on Blu-ray
State of the 70s: Play for Today Volume 3 on Blu-ray
The Movie Damned: Cursed Films II on Shudder
The Dead of Night: In Cold Blood on Blu-ray
Suave and Sophisticated: The Persuaders! Take 50 on Blu-ray
Your Rules are Really Beginning to Annoy Me: Escape from L.A. on 4K UHD
A Woman's Viewfinder: The Camera is Ours on DVD
Chaplin's Silent Pursuit: Modern Times on Blu-ray
The Ecstasy of Cosmic Boredom: Dark Star on Arrow
A Frosty Reception: South and The Great White Silence on Blu-ray
You'll Never Guess Which is Sammo: Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon on Blu-ray
Two Christopher Miles Shorts: The Six-Sided Triangle/Rhythm 'n' Greens on Blu-ray
Not So Permissive: The Lovers! on Blu-ray
Uncomfortable Truths: Three Shorts by Andrea Arnold on MUBI
The Call of Nostalgia: Ghostbusters Afterlife on Blu-ray
Moon Night - Space 1999: Super Space Theater on Blu-ray
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
   
 
  They Live We Sleep
Year: 1988
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, Sy Richardson, George 'Buck' Flower, Peter Jason, Raymond St. Jacques, Jason Robards III, John Lawrence
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 5 votes)
Review: When unemployed drifter Nada (Roddy Piper) arrives in Los Angeles, looking for work and a place to sleep, he finds a job on a building site and shelter in a makeshift camp for the homeless. There he makes friends with Frank (Keith David), but notices something strange going on with the camp's television set when the broadcast is interrupted by a message saying that sinister forces are at work. These rogue signals, apparently pirate radio broadcasts from a madman, seem to be emanating from a nearby church, but before Nada can properly investigate the police arrive...

This science fiction satire was scripted by John Carpenter under a pseudonym, based on a short story by Ray Nelson, and looks like a reaction against the President Reagan era with attacks on the greedy, "me first" culture of money and advertising as materialism went into overdrive in the obscenely eighties encouragement to total self-indulgence. It transpires that humans are no longer running the world, but space alien corporate businessmen are, exploiting the humans to make themselves as much profit as possible, at the expense of the ever-growing underclass who are fooled into believing wealth is within their grasp.

The way Nada (who technically is never named here: he doesn't give his name at all) discovers this conspiracy is in a great scene: after retrieving a box of sunglasses from the church the police have recently ransacked, he tries a pair on to see the world is a black and white, paranoid nightmare. Advertising billboards do not publicise holidays and consumer goods, but actually proclaim slogans like "Stay Asleep", "Obey", "Watch TV" and "Marry and Reproduce". In a nice touch, money is shown be printed with the message, "This Is Your God"! Thus the old myth of subliminals being able to direct our behaviour was put to good plot use.

And that's not all, because the skull-faced aliens are living amongst us, disguised by mind-controlling signals and passing themselves off as yuppies, police and the privileged rich. Of course, it's all very well blaming the state of the world on out-of-control capitalist aliens rather than rampant capitalist people, but it's a great idea for what becomes a smart action movie; it's more effective than Brian Yuzna's contemporary, similarly-themed Society, for example, which also posited the wealthy and influential upper class as a breed of monstrous exploiters literally feeding off the poor - though the aliens here want nothing except our money and blind devotion to consuming.

Nada's repsonse to his revelation is to get hold of firearms and start blowing away every alien he sees, but he soon finds out that not everything is as black and white as it looks. While his putting on the sunglasses scene is memorable, the real stand-out sequence is where Nada tries to persuade Frank to put on the sunglasses. Frank is of the philosophy that you should not upset the status quo lest things get worse for you, leading to a lengthy fight where the two men battle each other as if they were professional wrestlers (not coincidentally, Piper was precisely that), which shows how difficult it is to fire your potential allies into action against their oppressors and the infighting amongst the lower classes pretty much guarantees that resistance against injustice will continue unchecked. Plus, it's pretty funny.

Anyway, Frank finally does put on the glasses, and the two friends are recruited by a terrorist cell to destroy the heart of the aliens' signals as our hero attempts to win over Meg Foster's human television executive. All this ends up with a tale of sacrifice, but the punchline is a good one. What makes it more uncomfortable viewing now is the gun rampage solution that, from the other side, looks dangerously close to endorsing the actual mass shootings that increasingly afflicted the United States, and given how easily it convinced us there is a sinister force at work in the world, the other consequence, the far right conspiracy theorists who embraced the film to Carpenter's horror, maybe it spun off into far less salubrious areas than intended. Perhaps They Live convinces more through satirical intentions than its straightforward bullets and explosions episodes, but it made a nice change to see a sci-fi shoot-em-up with some thought behind it, assuming you picked up on the deliberate message. Music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 11493 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

John Carpenter  (1948 - )

Skillful American writer-director of supense movies, often in the science fiction or horror genres. Comedy Dark Star and thriller Assault on Precinct 13 were low budget favourites, but mega-hit Halloween kick-started the slasher boom and Carpenter never looked back.

The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, the underrated Christine, Big Trouble in Little China, They Live and Prince of Darkness all gained cult standing, but his movies from the nineties onwards have been disappointing: Escape from L.A., Vampires and Ghosts of Mars all sound better than they really are, although The Ward was a fair attempt at a return, if not widely seen. Has a habit of putting his name in the title. In 2018, after branching off into music, he returned to produce another Halloween sequel. He should direct a western sometime.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
Mary Sibley
  Desbris M
  Sheila Reeves
Paul Smith
   

 

Last Updated: