We, the people of earth have been invaded by hostile Aliens innumerable times over the last sixty years. At least if you go by Hollywood’s reckoning. Our little blue planet has been targeted by horrible beastly looking creatures and those employing technology far beyond our understanding. A few have come in peace but for most of the intelligent creatures out there we seem to be the best place in the universe to invade. The invaders have found our world a great place to pick up water and other natural resources not to mention humans seem to be a tasty treat in our galaxy. Strangely we never seem to be invaded by vegetarian aliens; vegan Venusians as it were. In almost every case depicted in the unending annuls of science fiction the aliens come at us with a militant take over on their agenda. After all as a of Sci-Fi author Charles Pellegrino has noted high tech rapes low tech. human history sullenly reinforces the accuracy of this axiomatic statement. Even in cases where the aliens initially appear to beneficent there is a wait army in the mother ship. This was a great analogy especially in the fifties when world super powers were still threatening overwhelming force to achieve their idiomatic victories. Communism may have employed more covert means to their end but ultimately it came down to an arsenal of hydrogen bomb. In 1986 master Horror John Carpenter took on the alien invasion genre adding his own unique spin. Since the eighties was the ‘Greed is Good’ decade marked by overindulgence and conservative politics it was only natural that Carpenter considered the earth besieged by aliens bent on domination through Reaganomics. These dastardly creatures did come to blow us away, well not directly. It better suited their purpose to give economic and political incentives to fight ourselves in a giant clash between classes. After thinking about it for just a few minutes this solution is perfectly suited to a highly advanced, aggressive culture. Get the natives to destroy all resistance and hand everything you want over to you in exchange for being accepted by the new world masters. This strategy has worked quite well for centuries when humans used it against our own kind. Add the allure of high tech and the trap never looked so good.
In a typical fashion for him Carpenter wrote and directed this movie doing what he does best; seamlessly blend horror with modern science fiction. Here he takes the short story ‘Eight O’clock in the Morning’ by Ray Nelson spinning into a tale of a rugged individual who stumbles onto the greatest conspiracy in history; extraterrestrial taking over the world. What is said about the world ending not with a bang but a whimper comes to mind here since the aliens are attacking us with supply side economics in lieu of death ray from flying saucers. At the timer this film was made corporate greed was exploding in the headlines of every major city. Huge cities were going bankrupt unable to pay for the most rudimentary civil services and many social services are denounced as entitlement programs leech funds from the hard working members of society. Homelessness, joblessness and drug abuse were at all time highs in the eighties. What held for this movie twenty two years ago has come back to the American people today making the underlying message of this film as pertinent now as when it was initially released. In fact if it weren’t for the big hair and broad shoulder pads on the women it could pass as a contemporary film.
The man known only as Nada (Roddy Piper) is a drifter. While on the road he supports himself by taking jobs as a day laborer. He is content in his life simply wanting a descent day’s wage for a hard day’s work. Nada is typical kind of hero that is frequently depicted in a Carpenter movie; rugged, independent and proud of being blue collar. This is not only our view of the story’s protagonist but the foundation for what we, the audience are supposed to cheer on. Nada embodies the traditional core values that frequent are depicted in Carpenter’s movies. Shortly after breezing into Los Angles he finds some works and is pointed to a downtown Hooverville by a co-worker Frank (Keith David) where he can find a hot meal and a place to sleep. Across the road is a church that fronts for an underground TV broadcast warning people about some insidious conspiracy to control us all. Nada barely escapes when the police raid the shanty town brutally attacking the hapless residents. While getting away he comes across a box of sun glasses. When he puts them on his view of the world is drastically changed. When he looks at a billboard or magazine he is able to see the underlying subliminal messages such as OBEY, SPEND, PROCREATE, or on the currency ‘THIS IS YOUR GOD’. Even worse when he looks through the glasses at people some of them appear as ghastly skinless creatures. Once he takes the glasses off things shift to normal. Nada naturally freaks out charging into a bank where he starts a fight letting loose with one of the best lines of dialogue ever libbed, "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum." A significant number of the police are aliens but no matter what species the take off after him. In short order Nada winds up on the run taking as human hostage, Holly Thompson (Meg Foster). Lamentable Nada gets pushed down a hill, engages in an almost six minute long street brawl with Frank and joins a resistance movement.
This is unusual in the socio-economic and political weapons employed by the aliens. On e of the most frightening motifs used here is how easy it is for the alien invaders to seduce humans into turning not only on their own kind but to allow drastic climate changes to remake our planet into something more comfortable to the visitors. Yes, in this scenario global warming is not only real it was started by the invaders. Carpenter is well versed in pitting the individual against a malice driven government. Carpenter is a true child of the rebellious sixties and is no stranger to the individual rising up against the corrupt government. This is a story worthy of any fan of the X-files who loves a good action packed yarn.