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They Live, Carpenter’s 1988 paranoid freakout, deserves to be thought of as a masterpiece, an artist’s defiant last grab at substance before losing the thread. It’s a cheesy but lovable movie about a working-class hero (WWF wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper), struggling to find work in a harshly class-riven Los Angeles. He discovers, after slipping on a pair of special sunglasses, that the city’s abundant population of yuppies are aliens. It’s that simple: Yuppies are aliens. In interviews, Carpenter often goes further than his screenplay (based in part on Ray Nelson’s short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning,” which became a 1986 graphic novel), flatly calling the secret ghouls Republicans. They Live portrays these goo-faced interlopers, as viewed via the black-and-white sunglasses-cam, in three-piece suits, being pushy and uncaring, blithely telling their coworkers to “Go for it.” And when they’re finally seen for what they are, by this nothing of a denim-clad construction worker (Piper character is named Nada), they panic.

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