They Live Movie Review by Marshall Gordon 3







“They use their tongues to deceive!!! The venom of snakes is under their lips!!! Their mouths are full of bitterness and curses, and in their paths, nothing but ruin and misery, and the fear of God is not before their eyes!!! They have taken the hearts and minds of our leaders. They have recruited the rich and the powerful, and they have blinded us to the truth!!! Our human spirit is corrupted. Why do we worship greed??? Because, outside the limit of our sight, feeding off us perched on top of us from birth to death are OUR OWNERS!!! They have us!!! They control us!!! They are our masters!!! Wake up!!! They're all about you, all around you!!!” – The Street Preacher

This powerful and very poignant quote from the opening scene, bares the truth of a society that would rather succumb to an eternal slumber like state than know the truth around them.  Surprisingly this quote comes from a film released in 1988. “They Live”, John Carpenter’s classic Sci-Fi horror film is like a bucket of cold water poured on you when in a deep sleep. Written by Carpenter and Ray Nelson from his short story, “Eight O’clock in the Morning”. The film follows Wrestler Roddy Piper as the wandering drifter coming to Los Angeles looking for work. He approaches a construction site, gets a job there and befriends another construction worker named Frank Armitage played by Keith David. Frank then proceeds to take “Nameless” or “Nada” (During the end credits Roddy’s character is referred to as “Nada” but he never gives his name or referred by a name throughout the entire film) to a local shantytown for food and shelter. “Nada” is suspicious of the small church across the street from the shantytown because of some odd behavior going on. While investigating he realizes the church is a front and hides in the back where there are lots of card board boxes stacked. Still in hiding, “Nada” over hears a secret meeting amongst some of the inhabitants including the leader of the shantytown played by Peter Jason. Later that night, the police surround the church and bombard the shantytown and its inhabitants with violence, tear gas and bull dozers. Most flee while others pay a terrible cost. Frank escapes and “Nada” as well but the next day “Nada” returns to the small church and investigates again. The church has been emptied but “Nada’ notices a secret compartment with a card board box inside, he takes it then leaves. In an alley, “Nada” opens the box and discovers a bunch of cheap looking shades inside. He takes one pair to keep then hides the rest still inside the box underneath some trash on the ground near a garbage can. While walking down a street, “Nada” puts on the shades and discovers and sees the world in black and white with some very startling differences. A billboard that without the shades had advertisements now, displays the word “OBEY” boldly. He sees “MARRY AND REPRODUCE” on another billboard he then sees, “NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT” on a Men’s apparel sign and “CONSUME” on another sign. “Nada” in shock begins to walk lost on what he is seeing. He then stumbles onto a magazine stand and sees more disturbing messages posted, “BUY”, “WATCH TV”, “NO THOUGHT”, “STAY ASLEEP” and “SUBMIT”. He then grabs a magazine and opens it and even more messages, “DO NOT QUESTION AUTHORITY” and “NO IMAGINATION”. “Nada” then see an older Caucasian businessman and begins to stare because through the shades this “man” looks like some alien creature. The “man” confronts “Nada” with a question, “What’s your problem???” still in shock; “Nada” can do nothing but stare at what he is seeing. The “man” then gets in his car and drives off; “Nada” still in disbelief then gets confronted by the magazine stand attendant. The attendant’s appearance is human but in his hand is some money and seen through the shades “Nada” gets the most disturbing message throughout the entire film, “THIS IS YOUR GOD”.  “Nada” later becomes an “alien creature” killer and a wanted man in doing so. He meets and kidnaps Holly Thompson played by Meg Foster and tries convincing her of what he has seen. He then forces her to take him to her apartment. When “Nada” removes the shades they seem to weaken him and in his weakened condition, he gets kicked out of a window by Holly that nearly kills him. He also realizes he left the shades at Holly’s apartment. Back in the alley where he left the other shades in the box “Nada” gets confronted by Frank. What proceeds next is probably one of the greatest and longest fight scenes ever filmed. This fight has a much deeper meaning in my opinion. “Nada” represents the truth and he is fighting for it tooth and nail while Frank represents the blindly comfortable. It is why he refuses to simply put on the shades to see the truth because he doesn’t want to see or know it. After the melee, “Nada” puts the shades on Frank and he finally sees what “Nada” was trying to tell him…The Truth. Later, “Nada” and Frank meet up with the survivors of the small church including the leader. They are given contact lenses that work just like the shades and also “Nada” sees Holly amongst the people meeting to rebel against the aliens. She is there because she put on the shades that “Nada” left behind after she kicked out of her window. She tells him she believes now. Suddenly the police raid the meeting and begin shooting and killing anybody than can. “Nada” and Frank escape in an alley via a wrist watch that opens a portal to an underground facility. While there they run into another drifter played by George “Buck” Flower they met at the shantytown. They also discover he is one of many human collaborators with the aliens (in other words…a sell out!!!) Later, “Nada” and Frank begin a gun battle with the police and guards of the facility (Which above is a Cable TV Station where they are) in the office floors. They again run into Holly once more because she is an employee of the station. “Nada” runs up some stairs toward the roof thinking Frank and Holly are behind him but right after “Nada” runs further away enough Holly suddenly pulls out a gun and shoots Frank point blank in the temple…killing him (The brotha’ almost made it to the end).  “Nada” on the roof, notices the broadcast antenna. Holly also makes it to the roof and takes aim at “Nada”. He then finally realizes she is a sell out as well. Using a gun hidden under his sleeve, “Nada” kills Holly then takes aim at the antenna. A hovering helicopter with alien police snipers aboard fatally wounding “Nada” but he does get off a shot destroying the antenna in the process.  In a true show of defiance, a dying “Nada” flips the alien snipers on the helicopter the middle finger and with the antenna destroyed the world is forced to wake up and see the truth. 

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