They LiveThey Live
Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster
Review by Brian M. Sammons

They Live, a fun, silly, action packed sci-fi flick with a message was made back in 1988 and was famous horror director John Carpenter’s take on Reganomics and how the rich chew up and spit out the poor. Yep, made way back in 1988 … alright I’ve got to say it: how damn sad is it that this movie seems even more relevant now? Twenty plus years later and things have only gotten worse? Where is all this Hope and Change™ we’ve been promised? OK, that’s about as political as I want to get in this review, less I start ranting and this is not the place for that. Still, like they say, “the more things change…”


On to more pleasant things. Scream Factory continues its nefarious plan of taking over the hearts and minds of every horrorhead on the planet with an awesome looking High-Def transfer of this quirky Carpenter classic. Man do I love this freaky and funny flick. No it’s not perfect. It not even in the top five of John Carpenter movies, but it is still enjoyable as all hell and a far sight better than all of the Carpenter movies that would follow it. I am thrilled to dancing (and I don’t dance) that this movie is now out on Blu-ray. Now if you’re a fan of this flick then you should be happy too as this is hands down the best edition of this movie to ever come out. If you have yet to see this film then be sure to put on your special sunglasses and let’s give this movie a good long look.


This film has onetime WWF (or is that WWE now?) perennial bad guy “Rowdy” Roddy Piper playing a down on his luck everyman … an everyman who looks like he can totally beat the crap out of most people, but I digress. The Rowdy One is homeless and wanders around L.A., finding work when and where he can, making friends with fellow hard working man Keith “Childs from Carpenter’s The Thing” David, and eventually coming across a box of very special sunglasses. How special can sunglasses be? Well they turn everything Roddy sees black and white. Why? Because that was how we were meant to see to the world, but someone, something has colorized us. In addition to B&W vision, Roddy sees that behind every advertisement, billboard, book cover, and every page in a newspaper or magazine are subliminal messages like marry and reproduce, no independent thought, stay asleep, and my favorite, which can be found on money; this is your god.


If that wasn’t bad enough, our hero soon sees who’s behind this massive manipulation on a global scale: space Republicans. Hey, just saying what John Carpenter said they were, so don’t get mad at me. But seriously, they are skull-like-faced aliens who have taken capitalism and consumerism to intergalactic levels. Earth is their third world (or perhaps fourth, fifth, or sixed world they’ve done this to, the movie never says) to use and exploit for all we’re worth and then get tossed away. They are our lords and masters in every sense of the world, keeping humanity focused on banal B.S. while they manage every aspect of our lives to make sure we never get a fair deal, an even chance, or any breaks other than the little ones they choose to give us, like crumbs from their table to their loyal pets. Yeah, pretty dark, made all the more so because it sounds believable. These aliens don’t want to eat us, impregnate us, anally probe us, or wipe us off the plant so they can colonize it. No, they just want to use the hell out of us. They want to keep us scratching in the dirt while they live high on the hog from the sweat of our labors. They wish to utterly control us from cradle to grave and there is no way in hell they’ll ever see us as anything other than a resource to be used, and certainly never as equals. See what I mean when I say this movie is even more relatable now than when it was made?


Thankfully the movie’s somber message is lightened up with some alien-shooting-in-the-face action, catchy one-liners, and surprisingly proficient acting chops from Roddy Piper. I guess all those years of professional wrestling trained him well how to fake things. Zing! Besides its “fight the man” message, this movie is best known for two slices of awesomeness. First there is an alley fight between Piper and David that is so long, drawn-out, and amazing that it has become part of pop culture, so much so that it has been referenced in many movies and TV shows including a great reproduction on South Park. The other is one of the best ’80s-tastic, badass lines of all time when Roddy Piper goes into a bank with a shotgun to cancel some aliens’ checks. Upon everyone seeing him and gasping, he says in perfect deadpan, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick-ass and right now I’m all out of bubblegum.” Damn that’s magical. This is just a brief example of some of the unadulterated cool and fun to be found in this movie and why I love it so.


The new Blu-ray from the cool dudes over at Scream Factory once again shows that they are trying their best to become the favorite BD releaser for horrorheads everywhere. With now five stellar discs out I am comfortable saying that Scream Factory is today what Anchor Bay use to be. If you’re a serious horror DVD collector then you know how high of praise that statement is. As for their latest release it is at leaps and bounds better than the bare bones Universal DVD that I had in my collection before this. First and foremost there is an audio commentary with director John Carpenter and star Roddy Piper that was both informative (thanks largely to Carpenter) and entertaining (thanks largely to Piper). Yes it’s a port over from an older DVD edition, but at least it wasn’t left off like other Blu-rays do. In addition there is a 10 minute interview with director John Carpenter. There is a tiny five minute interview with the woman with the most memorable eyes in movies, Meg Foster. But really, only five minutes? That’s all you could get with her? That almost begs the ‘why bother’ question. The awesome actor Keith David also has a short 11 minute interview that is extra cool because not only does he discuss They Live but his role in another John Carpenter movie, The Thing. Then there is a combo interview with the director of photography, the stunt coordinator, and the co-composer that runs just over 11 minutes. There is an eight minute behind the scenes/making of bit of marketing that was made back in 1988. A neat bit of extra fluff was a collection of some of the fake commercials that could be seen on the televisions during the movie. TV spots, a still gallery, and trailers bring the extras to a close.


You know, you just need to buy this new Blu-ray, it’s as simple as that. Come on, it’s They Live, on Blu-ray, looking great, with some cool extras, and it’s from Scream Factory. Support this new genre focused arm of Shout! Factory so they continue to put out groovy movies at a steady pace. Not only does this company deliver the goods, but they are doing more for horror on High-Def than anyone else right now. So do yourself a favor, and at the same time show them some love, and get this kick-ass new Blu-ray when it comes out November 6th.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This