Originally released in 1988, John Carpenter’s They Live joins the ever-expanding list of Carpenter classics to get the swanky 4K Ultra HD treatment. Is this new release of an old favourite worth picking up, though, or is this simply consumerism at its finest?
Plot-wise, They Live sees “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s Nada drift into a tale of capitalist aliens intent on keeping the world ticking over with subliminal media messages. Oh, and Nada discovers this conspiracy after donning a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see these otherworldly sorts and their instructions for what they really are. Kind of out there? Sure, but this Piper-headlined affair is brimming with social commentary about the power of the media and advertising in the 1980s; something which is still applicable to this very day. Alongside Piper, there’s a scene-stealing turn from Keith David as someone who befriends the wandering Nada, even if this burgeoning friendship is a temperamental one that leads to one of the greatest fight sequences in cinema history. Much like the audience upon a first viewing, David’s Frank struggles to get to grips with the surreal narrative that’s unravelling in front of him.
While They Live isn’t quite in the top echelon of John Carpenter’s movies, it is Carpenter at his satirical best, and arguably at his most terrifying where it pertains to real-life horrors. Let’s face it, politics and consumerism drive the world, and this is what the famed Horror Master gloriously pokes fun at here. But the message conveyed by Carpenter would only be funny if it wasn’t so scarily true. It’s a stark reminder to not just blindly stroll through life, accepting what is presented to you by those in power or with influence.
Of course, you’re likely well, well aware of They Live, its plot, its performances, and whether you’re a fan of it or not. So, that means you’re probably here to find out what marks yet another release of this beloved picture as something that you should contemplate buying. The new 4K restoration is fantastic, and the new crispness to the film only further adds to Roddy Piper’s everyman charm. It also makes the creepy alien types look even more eerily impressive, and you similarly get an added appreciation of some of Carpenter’s beautiful visuals.
In terms of the bonus features included in this new release, there’s a frankly ridiculous amount to sift through – including the CD soundtrack and a hefty booklet. The audio commentary with director Carpenter and star Piper has been heard before, but it’s one that is consistently engaging as these two genre faves get to wax lyrical about their time working together. It makes for a hugely enjoyable listen, and it’s a reminder of just how damn fascinating and fun the sadly deceased Piper was.
Ultimately, the biggest take-home from rewatching They Live in 2018 is how scarily relevant this 1988 effort still is to this day.
And while we’re got your attention, the 4K restoration of They Live is screening at cinemas around the country. For full details on when and where They Live, The Fog, Prince of Darkness, and Escape from New York are playing, be sure to head on over to https://www.johncarpenter4k.co.uk.
Special Features: Audio commentary with John Carpenter and Roddy Piper / Subversion: Exposing John Carpenter brand-new documentary / Original EPK: The Making of They Live / John Carpenter, Roddy Piper, and Meg Foster profiles / Interviews with John Carpenter, Meg Foster, and Keith David / Fake commercials / TV spots / photo gallery / CD soundtrack / 48-page illustrated booklet / 5 artcards
THEY LIVE 4K ULTRA HD / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JOHN CARPENTER / STARRING: RODDY PIPER, KEITH DAVID, MEG FOSTER, GEORGE FLOWER, RAYMOND ST. JACQUES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW