Thursday, August 20, 2015


In honor of the late “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, last week’s Monster-of-the-Week was a denizen of Frogtown from 1988’s Hell Comes to Frogtown. That movie does not, however, represent Piper’s best star turn—that distinction belongs to They Live, the 1988 sci-fi satire from writer-director John Carpenter (based on Ray Nelson’s 1963 short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning”).

Phoenix FilmBar is showing They Live tomorrow evening, Friday August 21, at 9:10 p.m., in memorial to Piper. If you’ve never seen the film, I highly recommend.


Monster-of-the-Week: …this week’s honoree is one of the “They” of the title…

…the skull-faced, pop-eyed aliens who invaded us long ago, and now use their superior technology to conceal not only their own presence but also that of the consumerist messages they’ve embedded in ubiquitous advertising.

Our hero, a homeless guy named Nada (Piper), gets wise to the true state of the world when he tries on a pair of sunglasses he steals from a mysterious L.A. underground.

Immediately he’s able to see things as they are:

If not Carpenter’s best film, this is certainly his most ambitious and interesting, and probably my favorite; I greatly prefer it to the similarly-themed The Matrix. Following a really intriguing, atmospheric and funny beginning, alas, They Live falls apart almost completely in its final third or so, with an extended, utterly pointless (but, I understand, much beloved) fight between Nada and another guy (Keith David), likely included as a sop to the fans of Piper the wrestler, followed by a shift to silly (though entertaining) action melodrama.

But it’s tough to shake the power of the movie’s most admirable invention, those magical bebop shades, and the unnerving visions that Nada sees through them (by the way, free They Live sunglasses will given out at the FilmBar screening, according to the website). It’s just a shame that Carpenter couldn’t, so to speak, find a way to make us all look in the mirror while wearing them.

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