They Live! (1988)
Genre: Action Sci-Fi Thriller... Comedy?
Starring: Roddy Piper (Hell Comes To Frogtown; Back In Action), Keith David (Requiem For A Dream; Pitch Black)
Directed By: John Carpenter (Village of The Damned; The Thing)
Overview: A down-on-his-luck guy drifts into town looking for work, but instead finds a pair of sunglasses that reveal all too much of the world's truth.
Acting: Its nice to learn things. Quite interesting is that Rowdy Roddy Piper of 80s WWF wrestling fame is not only in several movies but he's actually not bad in this one. Still, having a co-star like Keith David is a nice safety net even if it was early in David's career. No it's not genius, but it's surprisingly tolerable.
Cinematography: The first time we see through the eyes of those sunglasses, we find essentially the image below and all the subliminal impulses in glorious black and white. That's pretty cool but what's better is watching Roddy being chucked out of windows and getting beaten up regularly as he runs around with a shotgun. A surprisingly underrated film with a decent budget.
Script: "Brother... Life's a bitch and she's back in heat".
On top of that, this is also the movie where the famous Duke Nukem quote
"It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I'm all outta gum" originally comes from. Yeah, by now you know that the dialogue isn't intelligent but it's really fun, comically cute and a real good time in that cheesy kind of way.
Plot: "Why don't you just put on the damn glasses?!" - my girlfriend and everybody else I know.
The big gaping plot hole here is Roddy going around trying to convince people that there's this big bad evil lurking about that can only be seen with a fancy pair of sunglasses. Everyone just seems to not want to try to put them on and even fights vehemently not to, as though one's life depended on it. Some may find this very annoying but I found it most endearing, that which truly set it apart as a quirky comedy. The end is a little too open, the climax a little too bravado but it's the 80s and it seems to work just perfectly.
Mood: The issue I had with this film was "if they were cute little fluffy happy penguin people, would they still be feared?" That sort of thing is a little transparent, but I don't expect much from Carpenter in the way of anthropological analyses. Either way for someone to show us a world where huge signs like 'OBEY' and 'CONSUME' are there subliminally, we're seeing a nice subtext and the message is pretty clear. What one does have to remember however is that this takes itself seriously in that it doesn't take itself seriously, so you're left with a whole lot of fun.
Overall Rating: 76% (And They Can Act Too!)
Aftertaste: A perfect example of the scoring system being different than my opinion of the film, my purely scientific approach at ensuring the most unbiased rating result shows how this is not the best of movies but if you get a bunch of friends together, especially the ones who know who Rowdy Roddy Piper is, you might just find a kick-ass good time (and I'm all out of bubble gum).