Is it Horror? John Carpenter’s They Live (1988)

When you hear the name John Carpenter, most of think of horror films, like Halloween, the Thing or even Prince of Darkness.  Well, there are a few other films he has made that may or may not fall within the realm of horror.  They Live, is one that I have seen many times and I do currently keep my DVD with my John Carpenter films, in my horror collection.  But, I ask you…

The film begins with Roddy Piper’s character, John comes to town looking for work as a construction worker.  He meets Frank (Keith David) and Frank shows John to a place to sleep and get some food.  Eventually John finds the box of sunglasses and takes a pair and when he puts them on he notices the glasses show him the truth.  Some of the people he encounters do not look the same as others, they look like creatures of some sort.  The glasses reveal their true selves and for every human, there seems to be a creature.  John creates a ruckus and gets chased and he even kidnaps a woman.  The woman is able to knock him out of her house and he takes a big tumble down a huge hill.

John finds Frank and tells him to put the glasses on, Frank refuses and they have an epic fist fight for the ages.  Eventually Frank gets the glasses on and they find an underground group of people who know the truth and are not gong to obey.  That is another thing, there are signs all over, the advertisements say things like obey.  When the underground group’s headquarters is attacked.  John and Frank end up going to a television station to try to broadcast and show the creatures for what they are to the world.

Ok, I think this movie is clearly a sci-fi film.  Sure it is a scary thing to conform and obey.  Nothing horrific happened in the film and there is so much camp, it just couldn’t be taken seriously.  That being said, does not make it a bad movie.  It is just a fun movie, with some comedic elements.  The threat of these creatures reminds me on Invasion of the Body Snatchers or even the Thing a little.

They Live is a fun movie, but as you can see below, it is not horror.  There is nothing scary, no moment that frightens me or anyone I know that has seen the film.  The damned creatures really did not even really seem to pose a threat, at all.  Carpenter really stepped out of his box with this movie, even if there are things that remind me of his other films.

Check out the trailer below.  Like I said before, it is a fun movie, more comedy and Sci-Fi.  It is a Carpenter film for sure and it is a great addition to any collection, just not horror.

Of course, I would love to hear what anyone else thinks.  Let us know on Facebook and Twitter if They Live is horror.

If you’d like to add this to your collection, Scream Factory released a Collector’s Edition and you know Scream Factory is the way to go.



About Ray Marek III 681 Articles
I have been watching horror films since I was 6 years old. The story, one Saturday night, my mom and I were watching movies and she fell asleep on the couch. We had the channel set on HBO and the movie we were watching ended and the next one, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. This was some time in 1986. I watched then entire film, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. When my mom woke, she asked me what just ended and I told her, “Freddy”. That was all I talked about for weeks and finally she broke down and rented more horror films for me. She rented, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2, Re-Animator, Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives and Halloween II. I watched all and fell in love with horror films forever. 5 Horror Films to Watch Inferno (1980) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) The Beyond (1981) Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) Horror of Dracula (1958)