Monday, August 10, 2015

Ten Statements About....THEY LIVE (1988)

"We wear our sunglasses at night..."
“Brother, life’s a bitch...and it’s back in heat."

1) For a first time actor, Rod Piper does pretty well.  His John Nada manages to be fairly low-key and almost melancholy at times throughout the first act...until he puts on those sunglasses, at which point he keeps switching from Nada to Rowdy Roddy Piper, and those moments tend to detract from the main story.

2) Man, does this film move slowly.  There are long stretches where pretty much nothing happens, especially at the beginning and end of the film.  There’s none of that increasing speed of storytelling we see in some of Carpenter’s other films like Escape From New York  or Big Trouble In Little China.  As such, the story crawls, making it seem longer than its ninety-five minutes run time.

3) One of the many slow moments Carpenter could have cut to liven the pace?  That third act ‘tour’ of the alien’s facility.  All we really need to know about the aliens is that they are the  ultimate capitalist exploiters--they see humanity as chattel and are altering the planet to suit their industrial needs.  We don’t need to see every. single. thing. about how things work with them.
So a skinless man walks into a bar....

4) Even though her role is so wispy it could fly away with a good strong breath, Meg Foster does nothing to give any life to Holly.  She’s just not a good actress, delivering every line in a soporific monotone that, if anything, serves to reveal a major portion of her character arc way too early.

5) This films relies so much on coincidence in moving its plot that it’s ridiculous.  Even though Nada is surprisingly proactive for a Carpenter hero, he would be just sitting with his thumb up his butt if he didn’t happen to meet the right people who happen to be wandering by at the right time.

6) Hello, primitive CGI flying thingie.  If only you hadn’t flown apart so awkwardly when shot....
I've heard of simplifying articles, but this....

7) Okay, that fight scene--I really don’t think it works as a parody of wrestling (as my buddy Derrick Ferguson claims; I’ve always thought it was Carpenter’s tribute to the legendary Rod Taylor fight scene in Darker Than Amber) even if Piper does break out a couple of wrestling moves.  It doesn’t work because it stops and starts.  The killer isn’t the fight itself but the constant pausing we get throughout it.  Those pauses disrupt the flow and make us impatient to get the scene over with.  That being said....

8) It’s really refreshing to see a lead who obviously isn’t being doubled for his stunt work and fights.  This is where Piper’s experience as a wrestler works for him rather than against him.
Something for the ladies....

9) If you ask me who this film’s MVP is, it’s Keith David.  David is given a character whose arc literally changes in mid-stream, is made to work opposite an actor he really has no chemistry with, and goes out like a punk...and yet he makes this character work.  It’s a testament to his skill that Frank has any dimension at all.

10) One of the things that bugs me the most about this film is how it doesn’t so much end as stop.  Maybe Carpenter thought a sex gag (which makes no sense given how the aliens claim humans are repulsive to them, but that could just be me reading too much into a throwaway line) was a fitting capper to this story....but it, well, isn’t.

Overall...a messy, sloppy film that probably has its reputation due to a handful of--well, okay, a single--memorable line.  Its slowness and tendency to work in fits and starts blunt what could have been an effective little satirical thriller.

No comments:

Post a Comment