Popcorn Unhinged: They Live (1988) Review

Popcorn Unhinged is a fantastic movie review site, and here at TRN, we’ll be syndicating some of our favorite reviews looking at movies from the ’80s and ’90s! If you like what you see here, head on over to Popcorn Unhinged for tons more reviews of great movies!

Tagline : You see them on the street. You watch them on TV. You might even vote for one this fall. You think they’re people just like you. You’re wrong. Dead wrong.

So finally 32 years after this movie came out, I finally got around to seeing it. The good news is that is a lot better than how long it took to see some of the more obscure original UNIVERSAL PICTURES horror flicks. This movie directed by John Carpenter is about a drifter (played by former professional wrestler Roddy Piper) who is ridiculously nosey and ends up breaking into what he thinks might be a church to steal a box of sunglasses. Those sunglasses allow him to see some freakishly strange-looking humanoid aliens when he puts them on. As it turns out, their whole plan is to lull the entire world into basically being a cattle yard or resource of some type for the aliens. The movie is based on a short story called “Eight O’ Clock In The Morning”. So there’s that. 

There are some pretty great comedic lines in this movie for something that is intended to either expand on an anti-capitalist idea or just point out that capitalism is bad if aliens are running the show. Even a scene where a TV broadcaster gets cut off before insulting directors George A Romero and John Carpenter. It kind of falls in line with theories that lizard people are controlling the world’s elite for money and power and maybe some mice for food. Please note, no mice get eaten in this movie. The aliens however do not freaking want to be found out. They have a signal that pretty much keeps everyone in line through TV and advertising. It’s a really interesting concept made even more interesting that I found out about this movie via capitalism. How about them floating drones?

We get solid performances in this and even Piper is pretty great in the role of Nada (bizarrely the character’s name is never mentioned in the movie). Oddly this is not the craziest movie Roddy has been in. He was also in Hell Comes to Frogtown. If you haven’t seen that crazy movie…then wow… you are missing out on b-movie brainlessness of an unknown caliber, none of which is an indictment on Piper. Keith David (who has been the voice talent of just about every character ever with over 300 film credits to his name) also stands out as Frank, but there is a scene where he and Nada fight and it’s just like… “is this thing going to ever end?” Meg Foster (probably best known as Evil-Lyn, from MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE) is also in this as Holly and does a pretty good job as well. This was before she went on her “let’s see how many garbage movies I can be in” acting gauntlet. 

Cinematically you can tell this movie was made on the cheap. Almost every scene where we see aliens for how they really look is shot in black and white. While I guess this was a commentary on something cerebral, I wasn’t a fan. They had a lot of issues trying to shoot this movie in Los Angeles, but what we actually ended up with is a bit of comedy, a bit of creepy, and ultimately a cult classic. Moving the movie from October to November 4th to avoid competing with HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS might have been a smart move. The movie took in 3 times what it cost to make at the box office. Right now I don’t see this on a lot of streaming services, but the BLU-RAY is pretty affordable. 

I give THEY LIVE a 5 out of 7. It didn’t blow me away, but I am glad I own it just for some of the one-liners alone.

About Mickey Yarber 165 Articles
Sometimes referred to as The Retro Rambler...I was born in the '70s, grew up in the '80s, and came of age in the '90s. I love to share all the fun stuff from those years via articles and videos, and occasionally make un-needed appearances on various podcasts. I can also catch quarters off my elbow. Email to book me for your next corporate event.

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