Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: He wears his sunglasses at night.
John Carpenter directs They Live, a tongue-in-cheek satire of ‘80s consumer culture that stars “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as Nada, a homeless drifter who is sucked into a worldwide conspiracy involving aliens and subliminal messages after he discovers a pair of magical sunglasses.
It seems that aliens have come to Earth to colonize the planet. The population is kept distracted and complacent using subliminal messages sprinkled throughout advertisements and media. The aliens’ true appearance is also kept hidden using these means. The only way to discover the hidden truth is to don specially crafted sunglasses that give wearers a glimpse at the true state of the affairs.
They Live is very much a John Carpenter film. Cheesy synthesized music? Check. Groan-worthy, yet highly quotable, one-liners? Check. Cartoonish violence and gruesome make-up and practical effects? Check and check. In fact, They Live just might be the perfect storm of John Carpenter films — if only it starred Kurt Russell.
That isn’t to say Piper does not do an admirable job as the film’s nameless hero. Piper deserves credit for being that rare breed: A professional wrestler that manages to be entertaining on the big screen instead of an embarrassment — the usual end result for wrestlers-turned-actors.
In fact, Piper used his wrestling background to his advantage — bringing audiences perhaps the most memorable fight scene ever put forth on film. Clocking in at over five minutes, Piper and co-star Keith David duked it out utilizing the cutting-edge in wrestling’s fake fighting techniques.
Beyond just being a hyper-violent monster movie, They Live has a loftier goal— preaching a message that proves to be just as timely today as it was 21 years ago.
Taking aim at the yuppie culture that dominated the late ‘80s, Carpenter sought to explain the materialistic craze that had enveloped America.
Surely the reason why people had become so heartless and greedy could be blamed on alien forces seeking world domination. By combining the best of Wall Street, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and 1984, Carpenter turned a cheesy popcorn flick into something larger then itself.
In fact, watching the movie I began to question a lot of my own materialistic behavior as of late. I’ve found myself purchasing more and more unneeded junk — filling my apartment with new possessions that I really did not need.
In the movie, the aliens encourage this behavior in humans to keep them occupied and distracted from the invaders’ insidious goals.
Was my own spending and shopping keeping me distracted from the more important things in life. I’ve found myself becoming less inclined to be creative as of late. Can this be blamed on the fact that the Ikea catalog is now my bathroom reading material of choice?
Thanks for giving me something to think about Mr. Carpenter.
Robert Saucedo wants a cool nickname like “Rowdy.” Follow him on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.