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January 6, 2013

Movie Review: They Live (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Reviewed By: Rob Sibley

“They Live” will always be one of my favorite John Carpenter films. Shot back in 1988 and starring the almighty Roddy Piper. Shot on a shoe-string budget of 4 million dollars, John Carpenter is able to make every single dollar appear on screen. At first what appears to be a rather screwball concept, a drifter (Piper) wonders into town looking for work. He's a blue collar dude, not a super hero, he's an everyman, a man we can root for. Well it doesn't take long for Piper to figure out somethings going on...

He grabs a pair of shades (Ray Bans no less) and when he puts them on, he sees he's surrounded by aliens and alien propaganda. That's where the film gets really interesting. Now I know if your reading this review, you've seen and love “They Live”. So I don't need to convince you that it's an excellent film. But I won't spoil certain plot points because I'm sure there is still a younger audience out there who love John Carpenter but who haven't seen this film yet.

The themes are fascinating, the film at heart is a glorious attack on the Reagan era. While also attacking the crazy consumerism that was going on in the 80's that's even gotten worse now. When Piper throws on the sunglasses, normal billboards now say “Sleep”, “Obey”, “Reproduce”, “Marry”. Just showing how blind we are to what was going on and how we were living with a false sense of security, unaware of all the nefarious things going on in the Government.

Like I said earlier, it's a goofy concept for a film. A man throws on some shades, sees aliens, picks up a 12. Gauge and goes on a killing spree. SIMPLE. Nope... Carpenter is too smart just to take the easy way out, he fills the film with plenty of political satire. Under the surface of this paranoid syfy/action film is a flick with hidden meanings and deep subtext. Everything in this film works, especially the supporting cast consisting of the lovely but lethal Meg Foster (Stepfather 2) and the always rock solid Keith David (Requiem for a dream) as Piper's best friend.

The film is rather famous or should I say infamous for a fight scene between Piper and David that seems to go on forever. But it's a realistic fight between two big dudes who won't quit and that fighting spirit and “never give up” attitude is carried on through-out the entire film. It's a MUST SEE.

Scream Factory releases They Live for the first time on Blu-Ray in North America and the results on all fronts are nothing but outstanding. Presented in it's original 2.35.1 aspect ratio and anamorphically enhanced this Blu-ray stuns. Never before has They Lived looked this good. No bad DNR or anything, you still get a comfortable amount of 35MM film grain. The colors pop, the black levels are deep and rich, contrast is spot on.

For audio you get a 2.0 DTS Master which more then gets the job done. Some critics have bitched about the audio but this reviewer had no problems. The audio is crisp and clear, no crackle and pop on this track folks.

The extras include a hilarious commentary featuring Piper & Carpenter who have a blast reminiscing about the making of this picture. We also get a brand new 10 minute interview with Carpenter himself, discussing the filming and the original short story “Eight O'clock in the Morning” by Ray Nelson. Also included is a cool vintage making of piece, the theatrical trailer, some TV spots and some other goodies.

Scream Factory never ceases to amaze me with how much care they put into their releases and this might be their best release yet. You'd be a fool not to buy this. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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