The Faculty Review

by greg king (gregking AT netau DOT com DOT au)
February 4th, 1999

(Dimension Films/Miramax/Village Roadshow)
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Stars: Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewer, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Shawn Hatosy, Famke
Janssen, Robert Patrick, Bebe Neuwirth, Jon Stewart, Usher Raymond, Salma Hayek, Piper Laurie, Daniel
Von Bargen, Chris McDonald, Summer Phoenix
Running time: 100 minutes.
A variation of the classic Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, squarely aimed at a teen audience?
Something strange is happening at Ohio's Herrington High School. Almost overnight, the once jaded and disillusioned teachers suddenly develop a renewed interest in their students, as well as an unquenchable thirst. They are possessed by a race of alien parasites planning on conquering the earth. The obligatory group of film literate school misfits and outcasts discover the truth and band together to save the school.
Gun writer Kevin Williamson (who reinvigorated the slasher genre with Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, etc) makes no bones about liberally borrowing from The Invasion Of the Body Snatchers or a number of other sci-fi thrillers (Village Of The Damned, Invaders From Mars, The Hidden, and even the recent Men In Black, etc) for his latest screenplay. Williamson is a clever writer who certainly knows his horror movies, but the rules of the alien invasion genre are not as clear cut as those of the slasher genre. Consequently, The Faculty offers less opportunities to playfully dissect the clichés for a knowing young audience. The script is not as sharp or as fresh as his previous efforts, and the sly in-jokes and film references are also a little harder to spot.
While the original movie also was a neat parable about the paranoia and fear experienced by America during the McCarthy era, Williamson's script takes the same themes and sets them in high school, an environment with which adolescent audiences can easily identify. He deftly mixes gory horror and humour with liberal doses of teenage angst.
The Faculty is the biggest budget film to date for director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, etc). He makes the most of the opportunity, with great special effects, solid production values, and a strong cast. The students are played by up and coming hunky young actors, most of whom are new to the screen.
With 14 films under his belt, Elijah Wood (from The Ice Storm, etc) is the veteran of the young cast, while Josh Hartnett recently appeared in Halloween H20. Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall and Laura Harris play the three female students with plenty of fire, spunk and attitude to spare. Herrington's creepy staff are played mainly by veteran actors better known for their villainous roles - T2's Robert Patrick, Piper Laurie (from Carrie, etc), Daniel Von Bargen, and ex-Bond femme fatale Famke Janssen (from Goldeneye). Laurie is given little to do, while Rodriguez regular Salma Hayek makes little impression as the school nurse, who seems to disappear without any reason.
The Faculty moves along at a satisfyingly rapid pace, and is certainly fun while it lasts. But as soon as you leave the comfort of the cinema, its faulty logic unravels very quickly. For example, if you were an alien creature that thrived on water, wouldn't you first take over a small coastal town with a user- friendly environment rather than some arid, inhospitable dust bowl in the middle of the American mid- west?
Although an inferior film, The Faculty offers plenty to those teen audiences who enjoyed Scream and its ilk.

Greg King

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