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Monday, October 21, 2013

31 Days of Scream-O-Ween! - They Live

By Adam Ruhl

I’m a huge John Carpenter fan; I make no secret of that fact. They Live holds a very special place in my heart. This is one of the most creative science fiction/horror movies of the 80’s, possibly of all time. John Carpenter was at the top of his game when he made They Live, but like many of his better films the reception was soft on release and its reputation had to grow over time. Grow it has and it is now a cinema classic. In fact, this Collector’s Edition of John Carpenter’s They Live was what first turned me on to Scream Factory and I saw the serious treatment they were willing to give their titles.

They Live
The Film:
They Live was shot in the Reagan era and Carpenter mentions in the commentary that this film reflected his point of view on that time. It is a bleak time in America where many people are out of work and there is no social support for them. The main character is a drifter named Nada (Roddy Piper) who comes to the city looking for construction work.

Being broke, he ends up living in a shanty town where he discovers that a group in a nearby church is making pirate broadcasts and shortly thereafter they are raided by police. The next morning Nada enters the church and finds a box of sunglasses. When he puts the sunglasses on he can “see” the real world around him.

I know we’re not shying away from spoilers during our Scream Factory reviews, but I’m going to stop there. If you’ve seen the movie you already know, if you haven’t go buy this disc right now. The visual story that is They Live is best experienced firsthand. This isn’t your typical action hero; Roddy’s portrayal of Nada is totally believable as a down on his luck average guy who stumbles into something huge. He’s also immensely quotable and first time viewers are likely to have heard some of his more famous lines elsewhere.

Carpenter applies his usual multiple hat act, writing/directing/scoring a film that is so stunning but sincere and at times very funny. John also takes a lot of chances in this movie that really pay off. There is a prolonged fight scene in the middle that stops the plot dead but doesn’t feel at all out of place. They Live is well worth the investment and really brings elements that make it unique even with in its sub-genre of horror.

The Disc:
The collector’s edition cover art is a great illustration by Tom Hodge (listed on the box as The Dude Designs) Roddy and David wielding guns against a background of cops and aliens. The flip side of the cover is the original box art of the sunglasses reflecting the alien. There’s a very nice touch on the slip cover; all the slips have stickers detailing the discs features. On the They Live slip, there’s just a black and white sticker that says BUY. Come to think of it, the CE cover gives away some plot elements, if you haven’t seen it don’t look too close. Buy the disc, watch it, and then look at the art.

The transfer is good, the grain looks like it might have been reduced slightly but the details are rich. A lot of the movie is at night and there is a little ghosting in the blacks but you have to get close to see it.
Scream Factory has included a lot of good interviews on the disc. For fans of the behind the scenes there are interviews with cinematographer, the director, the composer, and the actors. Worth checking out is a reel of reconstructed footage that was used for fake advertisements in the movie. Curiously the pop up menu seems to lack a chapter select.

The Features:
  • Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and actors Roddy Piper
  • New Interviews with John Carpenter, Meg Foster, and Keith David
  • The Sights and Sounds of They Live
  • Two behind the Scenes Featurettes
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery
  • Consume
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Specs:
  • 1080p Hi-Def widescreen 2.35:1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • English-only Audio & Subtitles
  • Watch
  • Original Release: 1988
  • Runtime: 93 minutes
  • Rated R

Final Grades:
Story: A / Classic invasion tale that avoids a lot of the clich├ęs.
Presentation quality: A- / Excellent job but the night shots can be tricky.
Scare factor: B- / Not really that type of horror, subtle scares.
Gore Factor: C / Not a slasher film.
Repeat view-ability: A / Even after you know it’s secrets there’s enough to keep you coming back time and again.
Subliminal signage: ? / They all looked normal to me.  OBEY!

Add They Live to your collection, click HERE!

Check out yesterday's Scream Factory review, The Incredible Melting Man!

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