I have mentioned many films that are an influence on DRACULA WORLD ORDER. One that is a major influence, to the point where I am surprised people haven’t mentioned it to me, is John Carpenter’s THEY LIVE.
Carpenter is a huge influence overall, and the DNA for many of his films can be found in DWO (I mentioned THE THING in the backmatter, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and PRINCE OF DARKNESS are big influences too). THEY LIVE had a particular impact because it showed me how not just certain political issues, but an entire cultural malaise can be used as fuel for a storyline. THEY LIVE is still vital today because the paranoid feeling it engenders isn’t based off on any particular dated talking point. The film is from 1988, but the script doesn’t use buzzwords like “trickle-down economics”. Instead, fear is built off of the universally relatable feeling that big decisions are being made, and that you have no access to them even though your life is deeply affected. That story resonates in a political sense, but it also on a deeper personal level going back to our feelings towards our parents and authority figures in school. This film exists where the personal meets the political, which is an area I like exploring in DWO.
One thing that amazes me about the film every time I see it is that it speaks for the proletariat not just in story, but in its overall approach. The film feels blue-collar in every sense, down to Roddy Piper’s plain (but heightened when it needs to be) approach to acting (the best performance by a wrestler, sorry NO HOLDS BARRED fans). Downtown Los Angeles, a part of the city oft-forgotten in both film and actual city life, is shown warts and all with Carpenter’s precise, no-muss, film style.
I was heartened to hear that Shout! Factory’s new horror brand Scream Factory has a special edition of THEY LIVE coming soon (but first, I have to pick-up that version of HALLOWEEN III with the Tom Atkins commentary!). Perhaps it will include the Carpenter/Piper commentary only available in European DVDs, which of course is totally impossible to find in our day and age. But special edition or not, THEY LIVE will be around forever due to its bravery in staring down a feeling of paranoia and disenfranchisement that never truly leaves our cultural soul.