The Faculty (1998)

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> Surprsingly Good
Overall Rating 66%
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When some very creepy things start happening around school, the kids at Herrington High make a chilling discovery that confirms their worst suspicions: their teachers really are from another planet! As mind-controlling parasites rapidly begin spreading from the faculty to the students' bodies, it's ultimately up to the few who are left - an unlikely collection of loners, leaders, nerds and jocks - to save the world from alien domination. --TMDb
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: April 30, 2005
When most people think of Robert Rodriguez, they automatically invision Antonio Banderas and "El Mariachi" -- either that of they start salivating over the forthcoming release of "Sin City", which is sure to be a kick ass addition to his resume. However, one of the greatest offerings from the director is probably his least remembered picture -- the 1998 science fiction/horror classic "The Faculty". With an impressive young cast, perfectly inserted humor, and an ingenius set of twists and turns, "The Faculty" managed to do something very few teen oriented films were able to do back then -- it entertained us. I was seventeen when the film was first released and I remember skipping school to drive an hour and a half away just to see it. I remember loving every single frame of the film, and rushing out to buy the soundtrack as soon as I left the theatre. For me, this is not just another film -- it is a memory. And, while many people might find this picture to be a corny, campy, and sometimes ridiculous motion picture, I can only smile and lovingly disagree. Kevin Williamson penned a highly accessible script, and Robert Rodriguez transformed those words into a thrilling adventure. This film reminds me of when Dimension Films use to release quality motion pictures.

The setting is a small mid-Western high school that seems painfully normal on the surface. The jocks act like jocks; the dorks are treated just like dorks; and, there is always a couple beating the crap out of each other somewhere on campus. Casey Connor (Elijah Wood) is the head dork on campus, works for the paper, and eats his lunch alone on the football field. Delilah Profitt (Jordana Brewster) is the most popular girl in school, runs the paper, and leads Casey on even though she really considers him to be just as much of a dork as everyone else. Things get rough between she and head quarterback Stan (Shawn Hatosy) when he decides to quit the team and focus on college. Josh Hartnett plays Zeke, the Jimmy Dean type of the school, who sells drugs out of his trunk and treats his female teachers with a little less than total respect. When new girl Marybeth (Laura Harris) comes to town, he takes immediate interest. Clea DuVall is Stokely, whom everyone perceives to be a lesbian. She also befriends the new girl, much against her will. These are the characters. When the science fiction shit starts to hit the fan, these are the kids that band together to try and save their school -- and the world -- from aliens that use human bodies as hosts. Slowly, they watch as everyone in their school is transformed into these creatures, one at a time, until they are the only ones remaining.

Let's talk about the casting. For starters, it is perfect. Take, for instance, the casting of the faculty. Bebe Neuwirth as Principal Drake, Robert Patrick as Coach Willis, Jon Stewart as Professor Edward Furlong, and Famke Janssen as Ms. Burke. Then, take the students -- we get everyone from the already established Elijah Wood to the up and comer Josh Hartnett. Together, they add a bizarre texture to the film and allow the plot to go in all kinds of different directions. When this film was released, most of this cast was minimal and not very successful in terms of long term success. Look at most of them now. Elijah Wood has starred in three of the most successful films ever made, Josh Hartnett is reverred as one of the sexiest men on the planet, Jon Stewart has been winning Emmy after Emmy for half a decade, and Bebe Beuwirth has her own hit drama on television. Today, it would be virtually impossible to assemble all of these actors together for a film. That is what makes the film so enjoyable today.

But, the cast is not the only reason for the success of the film. Kevin Williamson wrote a script alive and breathing with humor. Some of my favorite scenes involve Elijah Wood at home with his father, Christopher McDonald -- their relationship is hilarious, and McDonald is great at playing these kinds of bastard characters. Also, the interaction between the members of the faculty has a lot of wit about it -- the way they band together and get to do to their principal what every teacher probably dreams they could actually do. In fact, most of this film is about the students and faculty getting to do what they have probably been wanting to do for years. I mean -- who hasn't wanted to stab their science teacher in the eye with a pencil? Adding to this is the fact that the film seems very claustrophobic at times, possibly because we know right away that these aliens have spread very quickly. So, everywhere you turn, you could find one. Everyone you meet could be one. When the kids trap themselves in the gymnasium and Principal Drake comes in, we know the truth, but how can they? What results is a very intelligent sequence of the film.

When I first saw this film, it seems like a mix of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Breakfast Club" -- where we get complicated characters learning new things about each other, but also get parasitic aliens sucking the life out of their hosts with global domination in mind. I kept waiting for them to get trapped in the library, revealing that one of them was a kleptomaniac, while the other has some serious daddy issues. Or, maybe just Paul Gleason comes in and says, 'one more peep and I'm busting skulls'. Coming from an alien infected son-of-a-bitch, that could be fairly unnerving. Even today, watching the film initiates this sense of nostalgia, just like the John Hughes films did for the generation before. For this generation, we have the mid to late nineties teen flicks, like "The Faculty", "American Pie", "10 Things I Hate About You", "She's All That", "I Know What You Did Last Summer", "Scream", "Urban Legend", and many, many more. These films are our "St. Elmo's Fire".

Walking through Movie Gallery the other day, I saw a VHS copy of "The Faculty" in the bargain bin for an astonishing $1.99. If you ever find this film for that price, the only decent thing to do is purchase it. If you don't, it is going to wind up in a dumpster somewhere, collecting dust, depriving numerous people from a fantastic viewing pleasure. The DVD version of the film is also at a decent price, running around $9.99 upon last inspection. Eventually, a Special Edition release will be presented, and that's when new audiences will discover this film for the first time, and old audiences will re-discover a film they might have forgotten all about over the years. Even if you didn't skip school like I did, there might be some long lost memory attached. You might thing I'm overpraising this film a little, considering how most films that are forgotten were never really that good to begin with. Wrong. That is not the case with all films. Some films become cult classics, and "The Faculty" is well on its way. For the full experience, go buy the soundtrack -- probably also available in the bargain bin somewhere -- listen to it in its entirety, and then watch the movie. That will give you everything you need to come to the realization that you have just reconnected with a wonderful motion picture. 8/10.
Deadwired2 #1: Deadwired2 - added July 3, 2005 at 6:35am
I liked this movie, actually. Changed my opinion of Elijah Wood as a complete geek. Then Lord of the Rings came out.
Lucid Dreams #2: Lucid Dreams - added May 30, 2010 at 9:47pm
I forgot Jon Stewart was in this. 8/10
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