Kino Klubb presents They Live
“The steel mills were laying people off left and right. They finally went under. We gave the steel companies a break when they needed it. You know what they gave themselves? Raises.”
At the top of his game, John Carpenter’s They Live is everything a cult movie should be – goofily entertaining and yet slyly subversive.
John Nada – professional wrestling’s Rowdy Roddy Piper – drifts from town to town looking for an honest day’s wage of hard graft to put dollars on the table. Amongst the economic upheaval and public unrest, this simple everyman nobody unwittingly comes into possession of a mysterious pair of specially-treated sunglasses that reveal a world that has sold out to an extent far more than he previously suspected.
Is Nada really fighting the forces of an evil alien invasion with only his magical sunglasses to aid him? Or is this the start of a one-man murder rampage, random innocents senselessly gunned down in cold blood, his only manifesto that he has come “to kick ass and chew bubblegum” Either way, he’s all out of bubblegum.
Piper manages to balance downtrodden tough-guy cool and wild-eyed quip-quoting overreaction in the classic B-movie style. He forms a memorable bromance of sorts with Frank – The Thing’s Keith David – who becomes his accomplice and voice of reason. Their buddy-buddy friendship culminating in an epic five minute long fight scene, forms an interesting parallel to the ‘love interest’ of the film, Meg Foster’s impassive pale-eyed stare. A conspiracy theorist’s dream, paranoia and trust are clearly major themes, and when you can’t trust your own eyes, who can you really believe?
Pop culture junkies will find much to appreciate in this film. From the guards communicators clearly being the prop PKE meters from 1984’s Ghostbusters to the previously-mentioned ‘friendly’ throw down being homaged shot for shot in South Parks’ ‘Cripple Fight’ episode, this film has an impressive geek pedigree. Indeed, the final slam-bang shoot ‘em up ending with its two-man ‘run and gun’ through the city’s back alleyways and corridors – filmed in first person perspective – is eerily reminiscent of today’s computer console first person shooters, the fakey unrealness of the aliens coldly at odds with the loss of life depicted.
They Live is a film that has moved along with the eighties Reaganomics of its inception and seems even more relevant in the highly media-driven age of today.
“The poor and the underclass are growing. Racial justice and human rights are nonexistent. They have created a repressive society and we are their unwitting accomplices. Their intention to rule rests with the annihilation of consciousness. We have been lulled into a trance. They have made us indifferent to ourselves, to others. We are focused only on our own gain.”
Catch it now, before the inevitable watered-down remake.
Bring along your classic sunglasses, mullets (real or a wig, only the brave need actually chop their locks) and plaid shirts and be part of the fancy dress competition. DJs and other surprises are in store.
Kino Klubb presents They Live in Broadway Cafe Bar on Friday 21 September at 9pm. Free.