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Forget the low-budget FX. Forget that the star is a professional wrestler. Forget the cornball dialogue. They Live is a serious film, man, one of the unappreciated works of John Carpenter’s middle years, a serious critique of Reagan-era America. Here, the rich and powerful are aliens, and only Roddy Piper—no “Rowdy,” thank you very much—is the only one who can see them. They’re not like us, get it? OK, that’s one read. The other read would be that They Live is actually fully appreciated by the crucial stoner-and-camp-aficionado demographic and that it represents the highlight of Piper’s too-short film career. And the low-budget FX and cornball dialogue are fabulous: “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass,” anyone? And that’s not to mention the legendary six-minute alley fight scene between Piper and Keith David over a pair of magic alien-revealing sunglasses! Whichever side of the debate you land on, bring lots of bubble gum.
THEY LIVE SHOWS AT 11:45 P.M. AT THE AFI SILVER THEATRE AND CULTURAL CENTER, 8633 COLESVILLE ROAD, SILVER SPRING. $10. (301) 495-6700.