They Live Needs To Be Remade Every Major Recession [Opinion]

Posted by on December 7th, 2011

John Carpenter’s 1988 SciFi action masterpiece They Live needs to be remade every recession. It’s not a request, it’s a demand. And I have a proposal on when exactly to do it.

We can tie the productions to unemployment numbers. Once they hit a certain point, let’s say 7%, the rights skitched-20111207-210138.jpgholders commission a draft. The original film was released in November of ’88 (5.4%) but the nation had just come out of a crippling recession which topped out at 10.4% in 1982. We were as high as 7% in July of 1986.

In the film, our homeless hero played by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper makes friends with Keith David while taking a day labor gig at a construction site. It’s through this relationship and the introduction of a friendly vagrant commune that the bedrock of the socioeconomic underpinnings of the story are forged.

Put simply: There is no work. Life sucks. Take what you can get and shut up about it.

In today’s era of 8.6% unemployment. It’s a relatable narrative. A Google Image search for “They Live reveals inspired illustrations of both recession presidents. And unlike most stories that attempt to gain sympathy based on the economic plight of the underclass, They Live has a very simple solution everyone can get behind.


Aliens are controlling the planet using subliminal mind control. They use this to hide in plain sight. The rich are getting richer because they are in league with the aliens. We need to break their mind control hold on the proletariat so we can ultimately rise up and kill the aliens.


Class warfare as a justification for violence crass, easy and polarizing to say the least. Human survival as a reason for lethal action is primal, awesome and unifying. Throw in some brilliant creature design and no one can feel bad about Hot Rod murdering random strangers at the drop of a hat. Perfect action premise.

Thankfully, there has been talk of a remake. Unfortunately, it’s rumored to be based specifically of the source material for Ray Neely’s short story 8 O’Clock In The Morning. This has caused quite a stir since producer Eric Newman, who remade Carpenter’s The Thing earlier this year, insinuated that it would not include the iconic glasses which allows our hero to see behind the mind control curtain. More troubling for me, the story also lacks the economic subplot that makes They Live so instantly lovable for a theater full of people that know multiple unemployed people or are themselves without a steady paycheck. It’s also not particularly good.

It would be missing the point. Like remaking The Thing and removing the “the alien could be any one of us” device by constantly separating the alien from our survivors. Oh wait.

According to my proposal, we should have been hiring writers in December of 2008 when the unemployment rate hit 7.3%. Let’s not continue to make this mistake.

They Live is currently available on Netflix Instant. Watch it.

3 Responses to “They Live Needs To Be Remade Every Major Recession [Opinion]”

  1. Brian Gregory Says:

    I owned it on DVD before it was cool.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Good point, Justin.
    Every recession needs its own “They Live”.
    In fact, they should also make “They Live” movies for all previous recessions. Who wouldn’t want to see a movie about H.P. Lovecraft and Harry Houdini fighting aliens during the Great Depression.

    As long as they ┬áinclude a seemingly unending brawl between the protagonist and his friend, over the issue of the friend refusing to simply put on a pair of sunglasses, I’ll buy a ticket to any remake.
    Plus I want to see Lovecraft and Houdini beating the crap out of each other in a back alley, because Houdini won’t put on a pair of sunglasses. Granted, Houdini would easily win and Lovecraft would probably faint three seconds into the fight, but if we suspend out disbelief for a half hour we could all have an awkward brawl that everyone can enjoy.

  3. mxyzptlk Says:

    When you think about all the staff needed to shoot the film, the union work it would entail, the marketing aspect, putting up billboards, ticket sales including popcorn and outsized/outpriced sodas, such a remake could actually CREATE jobs.

    You’re right to demand it, Justin. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s right for our country.