From the Vaults: THEY LIVE

Originally Posted on 02/06/08 as How Roddy Piper and his Tight Jeans Saved the World From Yuppie Scum Aliens

From the moment we see him stroll into frame, his jeans fitting snugly, his blond streaked mullet flowing in the breeze; we instantly fall in love with part time actor/full time pro wrestler, Roddy Piper as the hero named Nada in 1988's They Live.

Based on the short story, Eight o Clock in the Morning, director, John Carpenter took and ran with the germ of this tale of an everyman who has to save the world from an alien invasion, into a cuckoo political fable of Reaganomics heavily seasoned with as much macho bravado and bad one liners as was humanly possible, and by default whipped up something of a camp classic.

Actually, They Live starts off pretty damn good. It's all atmosphere as Nada, a down on his luck guy, finds his way to L.A. looking for some honest work, and ends up living in a tent city with some other folks who are all victims of the rotten economic times brought on by that failed movie star in the White House. These people spend their days working in menial jobs, and their nights camped around discarded television sets (that inexplicably have cable hook ups) watching shows that celebrate how the other half lives.

When he's not shirtless and sweating and looking damn hot, Nada is noticing that something peculiar is afoot. Like the strange interruptions in programing (stations are being hacked and an announcer appears warning the audiences that they are, even now, under attack) that cause a blind preacher to mimic what is being said on the television, or the odd comings and goings at a local church.

Eventually, Nada charms a local youth into giving him his binoculars so he can spy on the church from a distance, and he notices folks coming and going at all hours.

Before he can really investigate, the tent city is set upon by a thug-like cadre of police officers who arrest, beat or just drive the squatters away. It is during this disturbance that Nada stumbles upon a pair of funky sunglasses...and that's when the fun starts.

After beating a hasty retreat from the demolished tent city, Nada strolls the streets of L.A. and decides to try on the sunglasses. When he sports the Foster Grant knock-offs, suddenly the world around him goes from living color, to black and white - what's more, signage is significantly changed. Where a billboard once read, "Come to The Caribbean" it now states starkly, in plain black letters, "Marry and Reproduce". More signs say similar things like, "Sleep", "Obey", "Don't Question Authority". Upon glancing at a dollar bill, Nada now reads, "This Is Your God".

If all this is not enough to send a fellow into a state of panic, the sunglasses also reveal that many of the more successful residents of L.A. are actually zombified monstrosities of some sort. And most of them have these nifty little two-way radio devices built into their watches, which allows them to report suspicious activity to ... well, at this point we don't know exactly what they are, and who they might be reporting to.

As it turns out, we discover that the creatures are actually space aliens who have invaded our planet long ago and have taken over by controlling us economically as opposed to the use of laser beams and killer flying saucers - it's really a brilliant idea. The Yuppie Scum are from another planet, and they've acquired Earth via a non-hostile take over bid.

After the discovery of all of this, and just when They Live should really take off as a major indictment of The Reagan Era, the movie just flies off the tracks and becomes a testosterone fueled roller coaster of an action film.

In spite of this turn, my favorite scene comes when Nada, armed to the teeth with all kind of firearms strolls into a bank, wearing the tell-all-specs and shouts the immortal line, "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum".

That is such a stupid turn of phrase, and yet it's fucking brilliant - word is that Piper improvised it - so make of that what you will.

Now that the one liner bottle is open, they keep coming fast and furious. Here are a few other priceless bits:

"Life's a bitch, and she's back in heat again."
"The Golden Rule, he who has the gold, makes the rules."

"You look like you fell in the cheese-dip back in 1957"

"The world needs a wake up call, and we are gonna' phone it it."

"I got news for 'em. There's gonna be hell to pay. 'Cause I ain't Daddy's little boy no more. "

Trust me, they just keep getting worse.

Anyway, now that our hero knows the deal, he has to convince someone, anyone, about what is going on. First he kidnaps a woman named Holly (Meg Foster) and tells her. But Holly don't take no shit from no tight jean wearing drifter - so she pushes Nada out her living room window (really!) and after he falls, god knows how many feet down, he brushes him self off and walks away. And he tries again.

This time he tries to tell fellow drifter Frank (Keith David). Frank does not want to know either, but this time, there ain't no window to be pushed out of, so for the next six minutes, the most ridiculous fight scene ever put to film occurs.

In this corner, weighing in at 280 pounds from Denver, it's conspiracy theorist, Nada. His opponent, weighing in at 310 pounds and hailing from Michigan, it's the brown bomber, Frank!

Now we get to watch these two bulls beat each other to a pulp, all, presumably, because one wants the other to wear the damn glasses, and the other wants no part of it. Frankly, I think this is just the two of them working off some sexual energy, but hey that's just my take on things.

Finally, the fight over, Frank puts on the glasses and sees the light.

Next up the boys take a room at a dive motel on skid row, upon entering the room, Nada turns to Frank and utters another of those great one-liners (though this one seems rather telling), "Ain't love grand?" he smirks to his bruised comrade. Yes, to be sure, the relationship between Nada and Frank is filled with homoerotic overtones.

Anyway, now it's time for the boys to play cowboy, and play they do. Eventually they meet up with a group of freedom fighters, infiltrate the alien's underground headquarters(and in one of the film's brightest spots discover that the aliens have been helped along by wealthy humans who have a vested interest in the alien's undertakings), and shoot a lot of creatures.

Might makes right, and in the end, Nada exposes the world to the nefarious plans of the space yuppies by blowing up their satellite feed, which in turn exposes all alien's passing for human (note the scene towards the end where we see an alien duo debating the violence in film and mentioning George Romero and John Carpenter specifically).

They Live is a fun little movie, that coulda' been a contender, were it not for the dorky turn it takes. Still though, it is worth it for Roddy's bare chest, his tight jeans, and watching him struggle to show an emotion other than anger.


Paint it Black : STIR OF ECHOES

1999's,  Stir of Echoes, is one of those overlooked horror films that never seemed to get the respect it deserved.

Based on Richard Matheson's novel (A Stir of Echoes) , the film tells a blue-collar horror/murder/mystery tale about a lower middle class husband and father who suddenly finds himself capable of seeing dead people.  As played by Kevin Bacon, Tom Witzky is a guy who realizes that his chances at bettering himself are swiftly passing him by as his wife is now pregnant with the couple's second child, and he still sees no promise for a promotion  in his job as a telephone wire-lineman.   Despite this, Tom and his wife, Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) seem like a happy, if somewhat slightly put upon, married couple.  That their little son Jake (Zachary David Cope) has an imaginary friend he talks to often does not seem too much of a cause for concern.

Then one night, at a house party, Tom agrees to let Maggie's New Age / Hippie  sister, Lisa (played by the always delightful and quirky Illeana Douglas) put him under hypnosis.  Shortly thereafter, the fun begins. 

Later that same night, Tom starts seeing visions, hearing voices, and developing a seemingly unquenchable thirst.  He hallucinates his mouth bleeding and pulling his front tooth out, he finds a young girl sitting on the sofa next to him...and it just gets more insane from that point on.

Obviously overshadowed by the similarly themed, The Sixth Sense (which opened the same year), Stir of Echoes forgoes the subtlety of M. Night Shyamalan's block buster, and makes no bones about what might or might not be happening.  This is clearly the story of a man being haunted by psychic vibrations and earth bound phantoms.  As the movie progresses, we find Tom's sanity on the breaking point as he becomes obsessed with the remains of a missing girl who may, or may not, be the spectral apparition that he and his son are both seeing.  Furthermore, there is the element of an unsolved missing persons case, and the chance that several of Tom's friends and neighbors might be involved.

Set in a working-class section of Chicago, Stir of Echoes incorporates the mentality of a tight-nit neighborhood's secrets and lies and shows how they conspire to create a sickening reality for all involved...well, you'll understand what I mean, after you watch the movie. 

As for scares, this movie's got 'em.  From jump cuts, to harsh musical cues, to creepy ghost girls wrapped in plastic, there are several heart stopping moments. 

All in all, Stir of Echoes is a must see.  If you already have watched it, then you owe yourself a chance to revisit, and if you've never seen it, well, now's your chance. Trust me, this one delivers the goods. 


Let Us Now Pause to Drool : Jason Stackhouse

Dumber than dirt, possible werepanther, lawman, horn dog, and all around bad boy; Jason Stackhouse (played by Ryan Kwanten) is True Blood's reigning skin flasher.
It seems that since True Blood appeared, Kwanten's contract stipulated he be in various stages of undress at least once an episode...
...no complaints there.
Inasmuch as Jason is one of the few mortals (so far) in Bon Temp, he still has had more than one brush with the supernatural, and that, and his unquenchable libido, is always fodder for a sexy misadventure.
Even when he found Jesus, and joined the "Fellowship of The Sun", Jason still showed off those abs, and managed an liaison with a preacher's wife. 
Yeah, he's one lovable dofus, who could resist a romp with this redneck...and at least, in a town like Bon Temp, with Jason Stackhouse, what you see is what you get (provided that werepanther bite doesn't turn him).


Let us Now Pause to Drool : Alcide Herveaux

Note: I dedicate this posting to Christine Hadden

True Blood's ultimate slab of meat has to be that werewolf with a heart of gold, Alicide Herveaux.
I suspect that it's totally OK to drool over this subject since he's ... well, he's so damn drool worthy.
Played by Mr. Joe Manganiello, Alcide is probably the most ripped specimen on HBO's supernatural soap opera.
 Of course, to gain that body, Joe has to work hard...wouldn't you like to be his spotter at the gym?   Hey, hey, eyes up here!
As this photo (courtesy of True Blood High) shows us, a modern day werewolf need pants that will not only accentuate his gams, but be easily removable when it's time to shift.
Even GQ took notice of our lycanthropic heart-throb!
 The rear-view is also quite nice.

See, this is how a werewolf prepares to shift...and it might also get him a job at Chippendales.
 So what if he might tear open your throat and eat you alive in a fit of passion, don't you think it would be worth it?
 I figure a flea collar, some silver bullets (to be safe) and some Alpo is a small price to pay.


Horror Movie DILF: Insidious

Name:  Josh Lambertt

Occupation: Teacher.

Family: Wife, Renai. Sons, Dalton & Foster. Daughter, Tess. 

Location: Unspecified suburb of Los Angeles California.

Why Is He a DILF?:  Josh is a boyishly handsome fellow who is secure enough in his masculinity to apply anti-wrinkle cream to his face before bed ... he loves his children, though he seems somewhat distant to his wife.  As a matter of fact, he stays late at his job for no other apparent reason than to avoid spending time with his better half...
In spite of his somewhat ambivalent feelings to the missus, Josh agrees to move out of the new home he just moved his family into when his wife insists that things are going bump in the night.  That said, he is loathe to admit that anything supernatural might be happening, in spite of the weird goings-on...oh, and he also looks great in boxer shorts ...
Finally, when confronted with the reality that his son's soul has been kidnapped by a lipstick obsessed daemon, and that he himself, has a ghostly past; Josh man's up in a big way and travels to the "other side" where he battles a host of ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties to bring his beloved son's spirit back to the real world...
...unfortunately for Josh, his bravery comes at a terrible price...here's hoping a sequel is in the works that features how Josh's story ends.
Played by: (the always delectable) Patrick Wilson.