Cert: 15 Runtime: 104 mins Director: Robert Rodriguez Cast: Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Elijah Wood, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen and Jon Stewart
Casey, when did you become Sigourney Weaver?
One of the most underrated high school horror films ever, The Faculty is one of my favourite of the genre. Robert Rodriguez is a film-maker I admire a lot, from El Mariachi to Sin City he has made a craft for himself. So what is The Faculty about? To the students at Harrington High, the principal and her posse of teachers have always been a little odd, but lately they’ve been behaving positively alien. Controlled by otherworldly parasites, the faculty try to infect students one by one. Cheerleader Delilah (Jordana Brewster), football player Stan (Shawn Hatosy), drug dealer Zeke (Josh Hartnett) and new girl Marybeth (Laura Harris) team up with some of their other classmates to fight back against the invaders.There is more than a few shades of The Breakfast Club to these kids, which is probably intentional. Stokes, for example, is a dead ringer for Ally Sheedy’s Allison. They may be obvious stereotypes, but the characters are all sharply written, and given considerable buoyancy by the actors. Delilah’s acidic bitchiness makes her very entertaining. Stokes is admirably feisty about being an outsider. Even Stan is more interested in his studies than playing football.
It’s just a shame the teachers aren’t given the same exposure, especially with the eclectic list of actors playing them. They’re not really used to their full potential, but when Robert Patrick or Bebe Neuwirth are on the scene, they make a huge impression.The structure of The Faculty is clever, because of the way it juxtaposes high school as a sinister place out to get kids. Which is actually a fear most teenagers go through. It’s given weight and dimension by the inclusion of an alien invasion co-opting the teachers. The camera-work helps with the way it remains fixed on some of the schoolkids just staring at our six heroes, as if they’re secretly talking about them behind their backs. Which of course, they are.Also like Scream, The Faculty is witty the way it playfully acknowledges the sources it’s taken it’s inspiration from. Casey is the first one to point out how like Invasion of the Body Snatchers all of this is, even quoting directors like Spielberg, Barry Sonnenfeld, and Roland Emmerich and all their associations with alien pictures.But the motives behind the alien invasion is kept in the dark for the most part, which was a bit frustrating. And as the special effects take over towards the end, The Faculty loses some of the atmospheric menace so well sustained throughout.