Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Kevin Williamson
Starring: Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Shawn Hatosy, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, Usher Raymond, Salma Hayek, Jon Stewart, and Elijah Wood
The Faculty is a 1998 horror film directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Kevin Williamson (who also wrote Scream). It’s reminiscent of classic sci-fi horror stories, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing. When the film first came out it received mixed reviews, and in the years since has gained a well-deserved cult following.
The teachers at Herrington High School are slowly being infected by an alien race, that are replacing them in their day to day lives. A group of students start to notice that the teachers aren’t acting normally and are also starting to infect the students. Casey (Elijah Wood) has to team up with other students that he wouldn’t usually hang out with to try and save the school.
It starts with a really tense scene with Principal Drake (Bebe Neuwirth) of Herrington High School being chased through the school by Coach Willis (Robert Patrick) who’s already been infected by this point. In true Terminator 2 style Willis is relentless and no matter what Drake does to try and get away she can’t. It’s a great opening, that’s the closest the film comes to being truly scary.
After that the film takes a much more teen horror tone. We’re introduced to the main characters, all with their names coming up on screen for you to forget moments later, as they go about their day to day life, and things start to get a little unusual. The school is incredibly run down and looks like it’s ready to fall apart in most scenes. Most of the budget for the school goes to the football team, while everything else is left underfunded or cancelled. You really get the impression that this is in the middle of nowhere, so it makes sense that this is the place where an alien invasion would start.
The characters are really well written. On the surface they appear as if they’re just stereotypes, but there’s more to them than that. They’re all suffering in some way or another from the assumptions people make about them. There are also some really great performances from the cast, a lot better than you’d expect from a high-school horror from the 90s. It does a good job at capturing the anxiety of being on the cusp of adulthood. The star quarterback, Stan (Shawn Hatosy) doesn’t like how people treat him better just because he’s good at sports, while he struggles with the academic life. He wants to quit sports to focus on other things.
As you’d expect most of the story is the main group of students trying to avoid being infected while also trying to find a way to stop the invasion. There are some tense moments as they’re being chased around. You care about the characters, and want them to survive, so even though it’s all been done before, it still works. Towards the end there’s a nice twist, that makes complete sense, and is also completely shocking when it happens. The effects are a little dated, especially the CGI, which considering this is twenty-five years old isn’t surprising. None of that is that distracting though, and just adds to the charm of the film.
While it’s not as referential as the original Scream, The Faculty does play with the tropes and ideas of sci-fi. It subverts expectations and does have a few moments where the characters discuss the genre to help them decide what to do next. There’s also a scene where they are testing each other to see if they are infected or not, that’s pretty much the same as a scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing, and just as tense. It also doesn’t feel like it’s just lazily ripping off what’s come before, which is mostly due to the characters and performances.
The Faculty is a bit of a hidden gem film from the late 90s. If you’re a fan of things like The Craft, Scream, or Buffy, and you haven’t seen this then it’s really worth checking out.
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