It’s been twenty-five years since the release of John Carpenter’s THEY LIVE. Unlike so many other science fiction films of its time, THEY LIVE’s satire and socio-political messages have become increasingly potent with the passage of time.
We’ll screen THEY LIVE at the Alamo Drafthouse – Mason Park on Saturday, January 12 at 7:30 PM as part of our Tough Guy Cinema series. While past Tough Guy Cinema events have included live pyrotechnics or cap guns, we’re letting Carpenter’s movie speak for itself with one high-testosterone night of badassery.
Based on an idea from “Eight O’Clock in the Morning,” a short story by Ray Nelson, THEY LIVE was the result of a variety of influences and inputs. Everything from comic books, Carpenter’s growing distrust of popular culture and the world of H.P. Lovecraft went into developing the story of an unnamed rambler who stumbles into town and discovers that humanity is being controlled and manipulated by a race of extra-dimensional aliens. Even the final shooting script was written with much input from the cast – which included professional wrestler Roddy Piper and previous Carpenter collaborator Keith David. As a result, the screenplay is attributed to Frank Armitage (a name borrowed from the world of H.P. Lovecraft).
The story – full of weird science, unnatural monsters and scathing satire – has echoes of the best episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Carpenter’s movie is an ultra-violent, comic book howl of testosterone but beneath the hairy knuckles and tight jean swagger lies a smart, contemplative look at the rampant consumerism that plagued the ‘80s and is still prevalent in today’s culture. Is America’s obsession with Honey Boo Boo Child the result of aliens brainwashing us? That would sure make things easier to swallow.
To celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary, we’ll be screening a brand-spanking new digital print of the film from Universal and offering up free tokens – sunglasses and bubblegum. Also, prep for the screening by reading Jonathan Lethem’s essential Deep Focus guide on the movie, published by Soft Skull Press.
Follow Alamo Drafthouse programmer Robert Saucedo on Twitter.