They Live (1988) – Film Review by Max Coulson

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8/10

I’ve come here to chew bubblegum and review a late 1980’s John Carpenter film, and I’m all out of bubblegum.

They Live really is, in some ways, the quintessential John Carpenter film.  It has it all: the cheesy b-movie plot played completely straight, the utter distrust of authority, the satire of the media, an abundance of shots showcasing the main character wandering around set to cool, atmospheric music.  It really has it all.

So, plot…  Nada (played by pro wrestler, Rowdy Roddy Piper) is a homeless man who happens across a pair of sunglasses that, when worn, reveal that many of those in positions of power are, in fact, humanoid aliens who have been brainwashing us with subliminal propaganda disguised as advertising.

…fucking awesome!

It had been a while since I’d last watched this movie and, save for the pointlessly shoehorned in wrestling scene, it still really holds up.  Like with a lot of Carpenter films, the action is contained within very short bursts and isn’t really the main focal point of the movie.  Instead, the movie focuses more on building a feeling of suspense and atmosphere – making us as an audience really feel how outnumbered and outgunned our hero really is.

While They Live’s atmosphere is at no point as rich as Escape from New York (which remains my favourite Carpenter film), I feel it does very well in building a strong, foreboding atmosphere, considering the majority of the film takes place in a densely populated area during broad daylight.

This movie really does serve as an example of what is probably my favourite aspect of John Carpenter as a director, and that is the fact that he will take a story like this – and treat it as being completely serious.  There aren’t enough movies that have the confidence to run with a silly premise, without turning it into schlock comedy – but the ones we do get will always be refreshing.

You have probably already guessed, but I’m gonna recommend this one.

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Microwave Massacre – Film Review by Max Coulson

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5/10

Schlock, glorious schlock!  Oh how I love you and your weird, inconsistent tone and utterly baffling attempts at humour.

This really is one of those movies where the poster tells you just about all you need to know about the plot of the movie.  Some dude kills his wife for being a shit-awful cook, cooks her in the microwave and develops a taste for human flesh.

That’s really all there is to it and, for the most part, it does fairly well with its premise.  Pretty light on the gore, sadly – but I expected that, going in.  This is definitely more of a black comedy than a splatterfest.  Which leads me to the most important question of the review: Is it funny?

…sometimes.

The genuine laughs do actually get a lot more frequent as the movie goes on – since it does seem to thrive more on the darker comedy elements, rather than the wacky sex comedy scenes – which fail on every conceivable level.  The first fifteen minutes or so are an effort to get through, since that is the part of the film that subjects you to the WACKY wife character and her terrible cooking.  I kid you not – the first example of her cooking that we see is a comically huge crab in a giant burger bun.  She also speaks in bad French and thinks she’s really sophisticated because…  I dunno, she uses a microwave to cook veal.

Really, the only laughs you’re likely to get out of the opening fifteen minutes is by counting the sheer number of times you see the boom mic/pole (which is consistent, throughout the movie).

Once the killings start, the film does pick up – and there are even a couple of scenes with some genuine atmosphere to them.  Not much, but I’ll take what I can get.

This is where it becomes really difficult to talk about midnight schlock movies with any sort of objectivity because…  I just love these movies.  They’re not scary, not very atmospheric, and they’re not even all that funny but…  they’re just a lot of fun.

Can’t really recommend it, honestly – but, if you’re the sort of person who would like it, you probably already know that you’d like it.