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They Live

4K Ultra HD

Blu Ray

  • Score
    91
    from 5 reviewers
    Review Date:
  • They Live's 4K release: a must-have for Carpenter fans, blending eerie satire with top-notch visuals and sound.

    They Live 4K UHD Blu-ray Front Cover

    Disc Release Date:

  • Video
    90
  • They Live's 4K UHD release impresses with film-like visuals, accurate colors, and detailed textures, staying true to Carpenter's vision.

  • Audio
    91
  • The Dolby Atmos upgrade on 'They Live' enhances its soundstage with precise dialogue, dynamic range, and immersive atmospheric effects, standing out as the superior audio mix.

  • Extra
    84
  • They Live Ultra HD and Blu-ray editions feature enriching commentary by John Carpenter and Roddy Piper, extensive interviews, and unique insights into the movie's making, visuals, and stunts, alongside never-before-seen footage and trailers.

  • Movie
    89
  • John Carpenter's 'They Live' melds sci-fi and social critique into a thrilling tale of aliens concealing their takeover and class struggle, spotlighted through special sunglasses.

    Video: 90

    John Carpenter's "They Live" makes its mark on 4K UHD with a presentation that mirrors the director's original vision, enhanced for modern home viewing. This genre film has been elevated with a 2160p (2.35:1 aspect ratio) Dolby Vision transfer that pulls from the same 4K scan of the original camera negatives used in the Scream Factory and Studio Canal UHD releases. Graded for high dynamic range and supervised, graded, and approved by Kibbe, the image offers a faithful reproduction that enhances detail without compromising the film’s distinctive cinematography. Colors are more vibrant and saturated than ever, with lush primaries and nuanced secondary hues, while maintaining organic skin tones and a balanced contrast that deepens blacks and brightens whites without succumbing to overexposure or blooming effects.

    Throughout the presentation, the grain structure presents as stable and organic, honoring the film's 35mm photochemical origins with Panavision Panaflex cameras and high-speed anamorphic lenses. The HEVC-encoded transfer boasts improved definition, bringing out the nitty-gritty of Los Angeles's cityscape, from the shantytown's clutter to the sleek lines of downtown's buildings, and even finer facial textures of the cast. Alien masks and costuming benefit significantly from this sharpness, revealing fibrous details and makeup nuances that were previously muddled in lower definitions. Despite occasional dips in resolution and moments of mild noise reduction, the overall fidelity remains impressive, preserving the filmic aesthetic with minimal digital touch-up.

    In terms of HDR execution, "They Live" on 4K UHD shines with a subtle yet effective grade that enhances both shadow depth and highlight detail, contributing to a more immersive and cinematic experience. Specular highlights are carefully handled to add realism to metallic and glossy surfaces without overpowering the scene's integrity. The Dolby Vision presentation slightly outperforms its HDR10 counterpart in terms of saturation and dimensional depth, although the difference is minimal, ensuring that whichever format viewers choose, they are treated to a visual experience that significantly surpasses previous HD SDR versions in clarity, color fidelity, and overall cinematic texture.

    Audio: 91

    The recent release of "They Live" on Blu-ray elevates the movie's audio experience significantly, particularly through its new Dolby Atmos track. This mix, while not excessively bombastic, enhances the original feel of the movie, adding a rich layer of immersion that was previously unattainable. The soundstage is noticeably expanded, allowing for a detailed perception of low-level nuances and a broader dynamic range that seems to breathe new life into every scene. The Atmos mix shines with its application of overhead sound objects, making use of the soundscape to generate an engaging half-dome experience, especially during scenes involving police helicopters which demonstrate exceptional directionality and immersion. Moreover, the score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth receives a substantial boost, with instruments sounding sharp and dramatic support being notably enhanced, filling the atmosphere with weighty, rumbling low-end tones that complement the movie's ambiance perfectly.

    The Blu-ray also includes previous mixes in 7.1 Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats, offering versatility in audio consumption. However, it's clear that the Dolby Atmos track stands out for providing a comprehensive aural experience. Dialogue remains crisp and balanced across all formats, ensuring that every line delivery is clear regardless of the chaos unfolding on screen. The intricate use of atmospherics and delicate layering of city sounds across surround and height channels further cements the Atmos mix as superior, maintaining constant engagement through cleverly used atmospheric cues.

    Despite the technological advancements evident in the audio presentation, one oddity found in the Atmos track— a deep bass pulse at around the 01:23:57 mark—marks a curious moment in the otherwise stellar mix. It's a minor issue in what is predominantly an exemplary upgrade. This enhanced auditory experience ensures that "They Live" doesn't just look practically new but sounds it too, with its flawless dialogue, atmospheric depth, and a score that benefits massively from the added spatial dimensions offered by Dolby Atmos. The clarity and fidelity provided across all aspects of the soundtrack make this version a must-have for fans and audiophiles alike, breathing new life into this cult classic.

    Extra: 84

    The Blu-ray edition of "They Live" stands out for its rich compilation of extras that dives deep into the making and legacy of this cult classic. Fans are treated to insightful audio commentary by director John Carpenter and actor Roddy Piper, shedding light on the film's iconic moments and behind-the-scenes anecdotes. The disc brims with interviews, including Carpenter's reflection on sci-fi influences and Reaganomics, Keith David's transition from theater to screen, and Meg Foster's analysis of her character. The technical crew's contribution is thoroughly explored in "Watch, Look, Listen: The Sights & Sounds of 'They Live'", highlighting the film's visual, stunt, and musical achievements. Unique to this release are never-before-seen faux advertisements and a detailed panel discussion from the Texas Frightmare convention. Whether it's the background on the infamous fight scene or the aesthetics of Carpenter's dystopian vision, this collection of extras is indispensable for understanding the enduring appeal of "They Live".

    Extras included in this disc:

    • Audio Commentary with John Carpenter and Roddy Piper: Insights from the film's director and star.
    • Independent Thoughts: An interview with John Carpenter.
    • Man Vs. Aliens: An interview with actor Keith David.
    • Woman Of Mystery: An interview with actress Meg Foster.
    • Watch, Look, Listen: The Sights & Sounds of 'They Live': Explorations with the crew.
    • Original The Making Of They Live: Behind-the-scenes overview.
    • Footage From Commercials Created For The Film: Faux advertisements.
    • Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots: Promotional materials.
    • Still Gallery: Collection of images from the film.
    • 'They Live' Panel Discussion: Actor reunion at Texas Frightmare convention.
    • Never-Before-Seen Footage: Extended clips.

    Movie: 89

    John Carpenter's "They Live" stands as a riveting amalgam of science fiction and social commentary, deftly exploring themes of class disparity and consumer culture under the guise of an alien invasion narrative. As Carpenter directs with a mix of suspense and directness, the film serves as a powerful critique on the consumer-driven, media-saturated society of the 1980s, characterized by Reaganomics and a growing chasm between the rich and poor. The narrative follows Nada (Roddy Piper), a drifter and construction worker who, upon discovering a pair of special sunglasses, uncovers the grim reality of extraterrestrial beings controlling humanity by masquerading as humans and manipulating society through subliminal messages in media and advertising.

    The depth of Carpenter’s critique extends beyond mere entertainment, delving into the dynamics of power, control, and socioeconomic divides. The portrayal of Nada and Frank (Keith David) as blue-collar workers caught in a struggle against a seemingly unbeatable foe resonates deeply with themes of resistance and awakening. Their journey from skepticism to rebellion is punctuated by moments of dark humor and action, most notably in a protracted alleyway brawl that symbolizes the painful process of coming to terms with uncomfortable truths. The film does not shy away from the consequences of its message, showcasing the protagonists' fight against an oppressive system ingrained within the fabric of society.

    The casting choice of Roddy Piper as Nada lends a unique edge to the film, bridging the gap between the fantastical and the everyday struggles of the working class. This dichotomy amplifies "They Live"'s core message about the invisible chains of consumption and control, making it a compelling narrative that remains relevant in contemporary discussions about media influence and societal complacency. By infusing his sci-fi plot with potent social critique, Carpenter ensures that "They Live" transcends its genre confines, challenging viewers to question the world around them while mesmerizing them with its inventive storytelling and visual ingenuity.

    Total: 91

    John Carpenter's "They Live" emerges on Ultra HD Blu-ray, thrilling both enthusiasts and cult classic aficionados with its North American release from Shout! Factory. This meticulously crafted combo pack boasts superior video quality, showcasing HDR10 and Dolby Vision encodes, alongside a Dolby Atmos audio track available on both the Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray versions, ensuring an immersive viewing experience. The addition of legacy bonus material, including a notably entertaining commentary by Carpenter and engaging interviews with key production staff, complements the high technical standards of this release. Missing, however, are some unique features exclusive to the 2018 Studio Canal 4K release, though the selection remains substantial and satisfactory.

    Beyond its technical merits, "They Live" captivates with its blend of sci-fi, horror, and action genres, interwoven with dark humor and a sharp critique of 1980s consumerism and social inequality. Its narrative, centered around the concealed alien elite manipulating society, resonates strongly, particularly in today’s socio-political climate. Carpenter's film is celebrated not only for its innovative premise but also for its direct and effective storytelling, enhanced by another memorable synth score crafted by Carpenter and Alan Howarth. This release does justice to the film's legacy as a prescient portrayal of America's unchecked power erosion, making it eerily relevant in the modern day.

    In conclusion, this Ultra HD Blu-ray release of "They Live" represents a significant upgrade over previous editions, marrying exceptional audio-visual quality with comprehensive supplementary content that honors the film's status as a cult classic. It remains a must-have for fans and collectors alike, reinforcing the enduring appeal and relevance of Carpenter's visionary work. Whether for longtime admirers or newcomers discovering "They Live" for the first time, this edition underscores the movie’s critical commentary on societal manipulation and inequality through its compelling blend of entertainment and insight.