On this day in horror history, John Carpenter’s subversive sci-fi satire They Live with Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster was released back in 1988.
Written and directed by Carpenter, based on Ray Nelson’s short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning,” it follows a wanderer who discovers a pair of sunglasses capable of showing the world the way it truly is. As he walks the streets of Los Angeles, he notices that both the media and the government are comprised of subliminal messages meant to keep the population subdued and that most of the social elite are skull-faced aliens bent on world domination. With this shocking discovery, he fights to free humanity from the mind-controlling aliens.
The film was originally advertised to be unleashed upon the public on October 21, 1988, but was ironically pushed back two weeks to avoid direct competition with Dwight H. Little Halloween sequel, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.
That said, it opened at #1 snagging $4.8M at the box office. It spent two weeks in the top ten and was a minor success. But, like other Carpenter films, it’s since become a cult classic, notable for a nearly six-minute alley brawl between Piper and David that makes appearances on all-time lists for best fight scenes.
The subversive sci-fi horror movie sports an 86% approval rating over on Rotten Tomatoes with a Critics Consensus that reads: A politically subversive blend of horror and sci fi, They Live is an underrated genre film from John Carpenter.