They Live (1988)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In They Live, a man with no job or name comes to Los Angeles from Denver, Colorado; looking for work. Once he does find it, trouble soon follows when he stumbles upon some special sunglasses a group of extremists left behind at their “church” after a police raid. These glasses allow him to see the world as it really is; under the control of parasitic aliens from Andromeda. With a mind-controlling dish atop a TV network beaming extremely low frequencies into peoples brains, they rule humanity as they see fit. Now Mr. No Name does what he can to rid the planet of this menace.

‘They Live’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains many spoilers and feeble attempts at humor.
They Live (1988)They Live is based on the 1963 short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” by Ray Nelson. Piper plays Nada (either George Nada or John Nada, depending on which website you go to) – a down on his luck good ole boy who comes to Los Angeles looking for work during tough times. Tough, that is, for everyone except the ivory class elite – AKA – The Yuppies. But Nada believes in America – he knows that if he plays by the rules, works hard and keeps his eye on the future – his time will come. What a Fucking Moron !!!

Nada gets a job at a construction site and meets Frank – played by the always outstanding David Keith, most famous for his role as Sid in An Officer and a Gentleman. The two form a fast friendship as they …. Wait a minute – actually that was Keith David – the dad in Something About Mary. I always get those two confused. Anyway – the two form a fast friendship and Frank takes Nada to a shantytown where he can find shelter and food. While there, Nada sees a hacker break into a television channel with a pirate transmission spouting conspiracy theories about how people are being enslaved into a dreamlike state while they are unknowingly being taken over. And that those inflicting the enslavement are safe as they are not discovered. That they are using a satellite signal to hide their true identity and the only way to stop them is to shut off the transmission signal at the source.

Across the street at a church, the shantytown leaders are organizing a resistance against the infiltrators. Nada sneaks in and observes them. While there, he discovers a box of sunglasses, which he hides in a trashcan in the alley. That night the police, with full bulldozers, helicopters and riot gear, bust up the shantytown and go full Rodney King on everyone there. Nada and Frank escape unharmed.

The next day, Nada retrieves the sunglasses and decides to go for a stroll downtown. When he puts the glasses on, he sees what the hacker has been warning against – the infiltrators are actually Aliens disguised as Yuppies. Subliminal messages are everywhere. Obey, Conform, Consume. The aliens are lulling people into complacency with money and wealth while they slowly take us over. The aliens are hideous looking, human skull like creatures but with patchy skin. See, when he takes the glasses off – the aliens look just like people – really well dressed, manicured people. But he puts the glasses on – and “formaldehyde face.” Nada realizes that the glasses are the only way to spot the aliens, who continue beam subliminal images through our televisions, magazines and advertisements that get us to obey, conform and consume…….and sleep eight hours a day.

Some of the aliens spot him as well and realize that he can see them for what they are. They use their Rolex’s, which are actually 2-way radios, to communicate that they have been spotted. Knowing he’s in Big Trouble in Little China, Nada gets the heck out. Unfortunately he’s chased down by the police – who also happen to be aliens. They tell him he’s stumbled onto something but that perhaps they can all benefit from it. Nada applies a full “Jericho Codebreaker” on the cops and takes their weapons.

Now armed with a shotgun, Nada decides to hide out – in a bank. When he sees all the aliens trying to make direct deposits, Nada goes off and begins mowing them down. When he’s about to lay waste to one of the last aliens in his way, the alien turns a dial on his watch and disappears. Hearing more cops coming, Nada decides sneaks out the back. Innocently walking to her car is Holly, played by Meg Foster – most famous for her roll in…….. Holly’s played by Meg Foster. Nada takes Holly hostage and forces her to take him to her place – an upscale cliffhouse in the Hollywood Hills. While there, he tries to convince Holly of what is going on. Naturally she doesn’t believe him and when he isn’t looking, she cracks him with a bottle and throws him out the window. Tumbling down the side of the cliff, Nada finally comes to a stop at the bottom of the hill. Beaten and bruised, he manages to get himself together to head back to shantytown – however he dropped his glasses in Holly’s house.

When he gets back, he gets the rest of the sunglasses and goes to convince Frank of what is going on. However, Nada is now wanted for murder, and Frank wants nothing to do with him. Frank refuses to put on the glasses. And thus begins the showdown for one of the most epic brawls in movie history. And “brawl” is the only way to describe this fight, because it is a classic street fight that lasts over five minutes. In the end, and after several knees to the groin, Nada gets Frank to finally put on the glasses and when he does he sees what Nada has been talking about.

They team up with the other freedom fighters from Shantytown to combat the aliens. At a meeting where they are laying the plans to fight back, they are told that many humans are being recruited to join the aliens. That they are being tempted with money, power, promotions, etc. That the earth is being climatized through global warming to be more like the aliens planet.

Through the crowd, Holly shows up. She has Nada’s glasses. Apparently she has seen what Nada has been talking about and apologizes for throwing him out the window – say she was scared and had no idea. Holly is the assistant program director for KRDA – the local TV station – and has information on the source of the aliens signal. She says that the KRDA is clean and that the signal has to be coming from somewhere else.

All of a sudden, a huge explosion blows out the wall next to Nada and Holly and sends everyone scrambling. The aliens, disguised as police and military, crash through the wall and a huge firefight breaks out. Nada and and Frank get separated from Holly and get pinned down in an alley. Frank has one of the watches that the aliens used to disappear and when he sets the dial, a portal opens up in the ground below them. Having no other way out, they jump through the portal and land in an underground tunnel. Not sure of where they are they begin walking until the tunnel leads them to a ballroom where a formal banquet is taking place. The banquet is filled with the aliens who are celebrating their financial success.

While there they see one of the bums from their shantytown – now wearing a tuxedo, drinking champagne and telling them that he has joined the aliens and is now living “the good life.” He takes them on a tour that includes not only the ballroom, but the TV Station where the transmissions that block the aliens’ true identity are emanating from. While at the station, Nada and Frank open fire on all the aliens and begin hunting for the satellite dish that sends out the transmissions. They find Holly who takes them to the roof to show them the antenna. Nada runs off ahead and while he’s gone Holly pulls a gun and shoots Frank dead. She makes her way to the roof and pulls a gun on a stunned Nada. She tells him not to interfere – that he can’t win. He realizes that not only has she been recruited by the aliens, but that she has killed Frank as well. A sniper helicopter rises and have assault rifles trained on Nada. They tell him to get clear from the satellite antenna.

With one quick move, Nada pulls a gun hidden in his sleeve and shoots Holly dead. He then turns and shoots out the antenna – while simultaneously being shot by the helicopter snipers. Nada goes down while the antenna explodes around him. And while laying there dying, Nada transmits one final gesture – he gives the aliens the finger because he knows that he has accomplished his mission – that by destroying the satellite antenna, people everywhere now see the aliens for what they really are – and the aliens can now be spotted and exposed.

And that is – THEY LIVE.

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Universal Pictures released They Live on November 4, 1988. John Carpenter directed the film starring Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster.

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