The Faculty Reviewby Craig Roush (kinnopio AT execpc DOT com)
January 3rd, 1999
* 1/2 (out of 4) - a below average movie
Release Date: December 25, 1998
Starring: Elijah Wood, Piper Laurie, Josh Hartnett, Laura Harris, Robert Patrick, Clea DuVall, Usher Raymond, Salma Hayek
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Distributed by: Miramax Films
MPAA Rating: R (strong violence, language, brief nudity)
Georges Polti once wrote a paper called "The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations," in which he asserted the fact that all drama could be defined by no more than thirty-six different situations. This may be the modern restatement of the Biblical prophecy from Ecclesiastes, "There's nothing new under the sun." THE FACULTY, the latest movie by FROM DUSK TILL DAWN director Robert Rodriguez, certainly proves this in typical Hollywood fashion. There's not a measureable fraction of original material in this unworthy outing.
Drawing elements from both THE PUPPET MASTERS and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, screenwriter Kevin Williamson (of SCREAM 2 credit) gives us a horror tale set in middle America (Ohio) one eventful fall. Making use of a cast of unusually stock characters, Williamson designs an alien invasion that will not be done INDEPENDENCE DAY-style but rather "through the back door." Parasitic aliens take over the faculty of a run-down high school and soon have infested most of the student body, leaving it up to the ensemble of principal characters to win the day.
The lack of gusto is the movie's major stumbling block. Even though the genre has seen movies that have a lack for quality such as this, they've been saved by an energetic approach. This casts more than a shadow of a doubt on Williamson's ability, who enjoyed success with the Wes Craven-directed SCREAM but couldn't pull anything solid in for this outing or I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. Although he designs THE FACULTY with more of a sci-fi bent than his typical slasher picture, it still comes down to the same results: throw the stock characters in a steel cage match and see who comes out alive.
On that level, the main roles are played by virtual unknowns. Only the recognizeable Elijah Wood (DEEP IMPACT) is at the front; other than that, the screen veterans are saved for the minor roles of the alien teachers. Perhaps Williamson has it in mind to champion these up-and-comers to the fame that their SCREAM and LAST SUMMER counterparts achieved; but to do that, they'd all need to star in their own WB television show about the horrors of puberty a la "Dawson's Creek." Needless to say the acting is far from top notch, nor does necessity ask that it should be. There is a moment or two of genuine horror, but unfortunately Williamson and Rodriguez did not take the story far enough in the sci-fi direction to make any use of it. In sum, THE FACULTY was just one long shot that did not pay off.
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