The Halloween Hit List: They Live (1988)


THEY LIVE  (1988)


Rated R

93 min.

Written & Directed By John Carpenter

In the long, convoluted history of professional wrestlers turned actors, it’s safe to say there have not been many success stories. Sure, Hulk Hogan tried it for awhile in a string of sub-par (to say the least) kid friendly action flicks, but they made no substantial mark on the film industry. Stone Cold Steve Austin has an acting career, just one that seems to solely exist for the purpose of stocking those direct-to-DVD shelves. And of course, although his career is going incredibly strong at the moment and he certainly shows the most potential of them all, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson still hasn’t been in the film that made an undeniable mark not only on his career, but on the industry as a whole. And then there’s the case of ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper. Sure, his acting ability isn’t out of this world and he’s certainly been in his fair share of stinkers and direct-to-DVD fare, but he does have one thing that none of these other wrestlers do: a film that has undoubtably stood the test of time. That film is John Carpenter’s classic They Live. 

They Live is the best film of all-time to star a professional wrestler, and although that may seem like faint praise, I assure you it isn’t. What John Carpenter did with They Live is create a pure 80s sci-fi horror classic that has continued to capture hardcore film fans’ imaginations to this day. This is not only due to its fascinating subject matter and brilliant concept, but quite simply because it’s just a lot of fun. Focusing on Roddy Piper’s drifter character, They Live tells the story of Piper’s Nada, who one day stumbles upon a pair of sunglasses that give him the ability to see that much of humanity have had their bodies overtaken by an alien race. This alien race just so happens to be brainwashing the entire world with their secret, coded messages. What follows is an instantly quotable adventure with a shotgun-wielding Piper and an always brilliant Keith David. Their alley fight scene remains a classic to this day and is certainly not to be missed. Get your bubble gum, put on your shades, and OBEY John Carpenter’s They Live.

Is it scary? Not in a typical, horror film way, but the concept is certainly enough to freak you out.

Is it funny? Hell yes.

What’s the atmosphere like? Pure 80s baby. Damn, this is becoming a trend.

How are the performances? I’m not going to pretend that Roddy Piper is a great actor, but the role of Nada is well within his wheel house and he performs his bad-ass duties admirably. And hey, Keith f’ing David.

Why does it belong on The Halloween Hit List? Although most will always consider Halloween to be John Carpenter’s crowning achievement (and rightfully so), I will always have a soft-spot for They Live. It could be argued that it’s not really much of a horror film, but I’ve always enjoyed films that embrace science fiction and horror in equal measure and They Live is certainly one amongst many to do this. If you’re looking to be entertained this Halloween season, you could certainly reach for some other classics starring professional wrestlers, ya know like Santa’s Slay or something. But, if you want something with a uniquely odd concept and some intelligence to boot, pick up John Carpenter’s They Live.