The Faculty Review

by "Nathaniel R. Atcheson" (nate AT pyramid DOT net)
January 1st, 1999

The Faculty (1998)

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Elijah Wood, Piper Laurie, Christopher McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, Usher Raymond
Screenplay: George Huang, Kevin Williamson
Producers: Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez, Bill Scott Runtime: 100 min.
US Distribution: Miramax/Dimension
Rated R: violence, language

Copyright 1998 Nathaniel R. Atcheson

In The Faculty, little slimy aliens take over an entire school. They start with the football coach (Robert Patrick), and move their way through the principal (Bebe Neuwirth), some of the teachers (Piper Laurie, Daniel Von Bargen, Famke Janssen, Salma Hayek), and then move on to the students. So, naturally, it falls into the hands of our protagonists to stop the alien invasion: computer-nerd Casey (Elijah Wood), tomboy Stokely (Clea DuVall), cool drug-dealing Zeke (Josh Hartnett), football kid Stan (Shawn Hatosy), superficial cheerleader Delilah (Jordana Brewster), and innocent Souther girl Marybeth (Laura Harris). Along the way, there are plenty of violent deaths and a whole lot of movie references.

I like writer Kevin Williamson's self-conscious horror films better than most horror films. They certainly overpower the numbing badness of recent horror junk like I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (although, oddly enough, Williamson did write the original Summer flick) and Disturbing Behavior. He's clearly a man who has seen a lot of movies, judging from the constant barrage of movie references through all of the films that he's written (the Scream movies are basically 90-minute movies references, actually). The Faculty is sufficiently aware of its own silliness to pass the time pleasantly. It rather reminded me of Deep Rising, which was similar in it's sci-fi/horror/comedy approach.
Some are calling The Faculty a science-fiction thriller, but it really isn't. I don't even think it attempts to be. All of the science (the silly explanations about how the aliens survive, for instance) is intentionally dumb, and never tries to be serious (unlike Phantoms, which came out earlier this year and takes itself entirely seriously). The Faculty is strictly a horror film, with some comedy thrown in for good measure. And it's not a great movie, but it's inoffensive and it has some fun scenes. Directed by Robert Rodriguez with the same kind of visual flair that he's shown in previous films (even the terrible From Dusk Till Dawn), The Faculty has the look and feel of an efficient thriller, even though it is mostly played for laughs. The giant digital slugs that appear later in the film are nicely done, and most of the violence dances skillfully between disgusting and funny.

And funny it is; Williamson's dialogue is sharp, and I found myself laughing often (Stokely's constant insults are very amusing). The movie is not played for scares very often; there are some exciting sequences (the first scene, with Bebe Neuwirth running away from Robert Patrick, is well-done), but mostly it's just for fun. The actors are appealing, especially young Elijah Wood (I'm glad he hasn't met the fate of other child actors), and the film is just a lot of fun. I think it might lift from one too many horror films (The Thing, especially); Williamson still hasn't proved to me that he can come up with something really original, but the way he keeps reshaping the stuff we've seen is good enough for now.

Psychosis Rating: 6/10


    Nathaniel R. Atcheson

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