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THE FACULTY (1998)




Casey Conner




Just as the Scream films reflect screenwriter Kevin Williamson's affection for the slasher genre, The Faculty attempts to, and for the most part succeeds in doing the same for alien invasion flicks.

The film opens refreshingly, introducing the viewer to the students who will be our protagonists. They are the usual complement of high school social stratum dwellers: the Nerd, the Popular girl, the Jock, the Brilliant Under Achiever, the Outcast and the New Girl In Town. As the story develops, teachers begin behaving differently, and consuming lots of water. After a time, the nerd (Elijah Wood) and the cheerleader (the MMMR three alarm, Jordana Brewster), get to witness some truly not-of-this-earth goings-on, which leads them to conclude that aliens have taken over the school. Think, The Breakfast Club meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Now, the race is on to try to prevent the ET's from taking over the entire world. The kids discover that the diuretic base in Brilliant Under Achiever's dope can dehydrate the water-based interstellar parasites. Never mind that the kids undertake the mission based solely on the Outcast's knowledge of 50's science fiction. The ride is a fun one and well worth the price of admission. This movie offers enough fun that you shut down your brain without shame.

Director Robert Rodriguez (Dawn ‘til Dusk, El Mariachi) creates a frenetic pace and sustains considerable tension without the usual startle camera work that many directors seem to be mistaking for legitimate suspense.



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The Faculty jumps into the action so quickly that for a while I thought the projectionist had accidentally started the film on Reel 2. The initial parade of dimwitted jocks, self-satisfied beauty queens and arrogant dope dealers with a heart reminded me why I hated high school so much, and the knowledge that this was an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style horror movie left me musing "would it be such a tragedy if they were all taken over by aliens?"

Credit the young cast with the fact that by the movie's third act I was actually rooting for the teens to survive. It didn't hurt that the most intrepid member of this bunch was the nerdy Elijah Wood, playing the type of weenie who's never seen during lunch period without a juice box in his hand. He was my kinda guy, and he got me over the rough spots.

The grown-ups here are being taken over by aliens, and it is up to a small inter-clique group of students to stop them from conquering the world. This cross between The Thing and Class of 1999 delivers enough laughs and scares to make it a worthy date movie.



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While the "Scream" template is starting to show its age after only three years, the hormonal horror "The Faculty," with its possessed title teachers and the disparate, intrepid students who thwart them, is much more entertaining than it has any right to be. This is due in large part to Kevin Williamson’s clichéd yet genuinely quirky script, which presents the strange doings at decrepit Herrington High as sort of a cross between Up the Down Staircase and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (which gets mentioned repeatedly by the pop culture-saturated teens).

The large cast is up to the mix, with Elijah Wood a standout as the picked upon yet plucky intellectual who leads the charge and Famke Janssen nearly unrecognizable as one of the teachers who make startling transformations (they’re all played by TV and genre vets). Part of the problem here is that most of the kids talk like we all wish we’d talked in high school ("I’m not an alien, I’m discontent"), and the resulting glibness contributes to a sense of superficial choppiness enhanced by the fluid yet mannered camera of director Robert Rodriguez. On the cool scale, there are a couple of pointed references to Robert A. Heinlein and that’s Harry "Ain’t It Cool News" Knowles glimpsed briefly servicing the cooler in the teacher’s lounge (they drink a lot of water). "You’re not buying this, are you?" one student says to another at a key moment. "No, I’m not," is the comeback, "but it’s kinda cool." In it’s own derivative way, so is The Faculty.
 
 
 


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