They Live (1988)
Reviewed on 2007 February 22
I love this allegory. Nada (Roddy Piper) is a down-on-his-luck drifter, trying to get by and still keeping his faith in the American dream. Even as he applies unsuccessfully for more than random day jobs, he keeps his sense of humor and his patience. He notices the vast gulf between the rich and the poor, but tells himself he can make it if he just tries, to the amusement of his jaded friend Frank (Keith David). It’s hard for Frank to have Nada’s optimism. Most people are too tired or broken to do much except sit around in makeshift labor camps and watch the dumb shows streaming from Channel 54.
One night after the government smacks down way too hard on what appears to be random nuts having underground meetings at a neighborhood church, he sneaks in, trying to see what they’re really up to. He escapes with a box and sneaks into an alley. He opens the box and finds… sunglasses. For a moment you can feel him thinking, “What the… all this for shades? They aren’t even Ray-Bans®!”
And then he puts the sunglasses on…
Carpenter took Ray Nelson’s short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” and turned it into a nice cult sci-fi flick, complete with his electronic music and some classic one-liners. Piper is actually very good in this, a fearless but genial guy who decides to fight the status quo. Oh, and he delivers his classic bubblegum line too.
Three chocolate morsels.