+ high-res version

Watched: 25 January

John Carpenter’s alien invasion film wears its anti-capitalist message very clearly on its sleeve; in this genre flick the wrestler ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper plays a construction worker who discovers a pair of sunglasses that enable him to see the world ‘as it really is’ – one in which subliminal advertising messages are used to control the people (‘Obey’, ‘Consume’, etc – hello, Shepard Fairey), while wealthy humans collude with disguised alien invaders to widen the gap between rich and poor – an idea cribbed from the earlier TV miniseries V. While the simmering discontent and sense of resistance contained within is as relevant today as it was upon release back in the late 1980s (arguably even more so, given the size of the rich/poor gap now), I can’t really make a case for it aging very well otherwise: the various action tropes seen here felt tired even by the end of that decade (caution: this film contains one-handed machine gun fire), and while Piper tries his best in the lead role – playing a character referred to as John Nada in the credits – it’s a shame that Carpenter regular Kurt Russell missed this one, though I have to assume he was probably sick of playing mullet-sporting, denim-clad heroes by this point. There’s not much info provided on who the aliens are, how and when they got to Earth and how they managed to take over, but I do like the way the film tantalisingly ends at a point in which things are about to get really interesting; perhaps Carpenter thought he might be able to make a sequel at some point in time. Fun at times, but despite its cult status it’s nowhere near as good as the director’s best work of the decade. (***)