the faculty | robert rodriguez | kevin williamson | jordana brewster | clea duvall | laura harris | sci-fi | sci fi | united states | alien | aliens | parasite | josh hartnett | salma hayek | elijah wood | daniel von bargen | piper laurie | famke janssen | robert patrick
Film: The Faculty
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Kevin Williamson
Starring: Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall and Laura Harris
This film was one that my mother actually took me and my sister to see when it was in the theater. At the time, I enjoyed, but it wasn’t until I got older and started to learn the history of cinema that this film made that much more sense to me. I’ll get into that here in a bit. The synopsis is students suspect that their teachers are aliens after bizarre occurrences.
We start on the football field. Coach Joe Willis (Robert Patrick) goes off about the play on the field. The star quarterback for the team is Stan Rosado (Shawn Hatosy) and he is getting yelled at. The best defensive player is Gabe Santora (Usher Raymond). They leave the field together. Coach Willis loses his mind and flips over the bench, spilling the water and dumping everything. In this fit of rage, he tries to break the sprinkler that is turning on. Someone comes up behind him.
Later that night we are at a meeting of teachers and the principal. The principal is Valerie Drake (Bebe Neuwirth). She breaks the news to all of the teachers that they are not going to get the funding they asked for. John Tate (Daniel von Bargen) calls her out about the football team getting a majority of it. She confirms this, stating that due to it being a football town and filling the stands every Friday night. Them getting the funding is what the school board and the city wants. As she goes to leave, she forgets her keys. She goes back inside and Coach Willis confronts her in the office. He stabs her hand with a pencil and she tries to escape. Another teacher, Karen Olson (Piper Laurie) tries to help her, but we see that there is something wrong with her as well.
The next day, we meet the students the film follows. Getting off the bus is Casey Connor (Elijah Wood). He is the photographer for the school newspaper and is bullied. The head cheerleader and of the newspaper is Delilah Profitt (Jordana Brewster). She is dating Stan, who tries to talk to her to tell her about him quitting the team, but she keeps blowing him off. There’s Stokley ‘Stokes’ Mitchell (Clea DuVall) who bumps into Stan and is rude to him. She is a loner and loves science fiction. Delilah bullies with things like calling her a lesbian. There is the new southern girl named Marybeth Louise Hutchinson (Laura Harris). Zeke Tyler (Josh Hartnett) is a senior who was held back. He is really smart, but doesn’t apply himself. He runs a store out of the truck of his car for things like drugs, laxatives, bootleg VHS tapes and condoms. He also is interested in Marybeth, who seems to be into him as well.
In the teacher’s lodge we meet Rosa Harper (Salma Hayek) who is the school nurse and also under the weather. Elizabeth Burke (Famke Janssen) is a prudish teacher with no confidence. Edward Furlong (Jon Stewart) is also a science teacher. A couple of them notice when Coach Willis comes in and is drinking a lot of water. He doesn’t react to anyone until Karen enters the room.
Casey has his lunch on the stands by the football field. As he is coming back to class he finds something on the ground. There’s a run in with Coach Willis and he takes what he found to Prof Furlong’s class where they examine it. He notices that it is similar to an underwater creature, but it doesn’t make sense since they are in Ohio. Zeke comes up and looks at it with him, asking smart questions. Stokely makes a comment and Gabe mocks her. She bumps into him and water spills on the thing, bringing it back to life. Prof Furlong then drops it into a tank full of water and they see that it comes back fully. He goes to grab it and it bites his finger. His plan is to send it to the local university to see what they make of it.
Things then start to get weird when Delilah and Casey hide in the Teacher’s Lounge and see Coach Willis along with Karen attack Nurse Rosa. They know what they saw, but they can’t convince anyone else. Casey seeks out Stokely who knows about science fiction. It is through an encounter with Prof Furlong that they do realize, he’s telling the truth and their school is being taken over by something.
As I’ve kind of already alluded to, I did really enjoy this film back when I first saw it. To my knowledge, this would actually be the first film dealing with parasites or aliens taking people over I had ever seen. Since then I’ve seen a few of the different version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, part of the Puppet Masters and even Night of the Creeps. It really is an interesting concept that keeps getting revisited throughout each decade.
What I think makes this one socially relevant even knows is that it takes a meta approach. I’m not surprised to see that Kevin Williamson wrote this screenplay as it does feel a bit like his more famous film, Scream. In this world, science fiction exists. Stokely actually talks about Invasion of the Body Snatchers as well as Puppet Masters. I really like this as it helps give them an idea of how to defeat what is happening.
Taking it even a bit farther, it is interesting in that this film really does show how some people are garbage. There are the two girls who get in a car accident and actually fight each other. Zeke is extremely rude to Miss Burke because he knows that he can. Marybeth is given a rude awakening from her upbringing in the south. It really makes it hard to not see the point of view of the parasite here that they’re making a better world without fear and not being accepted. I think this concept makes it easy to adapt and update for the time it is made.
There is the fear of those that are still normal of not knowing who is taken over or not. I find it interesting that they have Coach Willis being extremely angry and vocal. When he makes the change, he becomes quite docile. It makes Nurse Harper and Miss Burke much more confident in themselves, to the point where Miss Burke goes off on Zeke. I do think this is a bit of a misstep in not having them all act similar. I don’t mind the change in character for them, but it is also doesn’t keep in line with what the film is going for. It would make more sense for them all to be docile though.
I want to move to the pacing of the film, which I think is actually really good. The movie does a great job at jumping into it while introducing us to all of the characters. This can be tricky with the amount of characters we are dealing with, but I think that director Robert Rodriguez who also edited it cut it in a way where it works. I never get bored and I do feel that it builds tension to the climax, which was solid as well. The ending is a bit too clinched for me but I’ll let it slide.
Something that is hit or miss for me is the acting. Brewster is gorgeous and I thought she plays the cheerleader well. She is bully and quite crude to Stokely. DuVall’s performance though was spot on. She has an interesting dynamic with Stan. Harris I think was fine in her role. Harnett is interesting in that he does come off as very smart, but he is smug. His home life isn’t good so he’s acting out, but I do think he goes a bit far and it loses a bit of believability. Hatosy I think was miscast. He just doesn’t look like the jock the film is building up. Janssen I also think was miscast. She is too good looking to be as mousey as the film is trying to pretend. Her make-over is fine, but I just don’t buy into it. I also want to commend Patrick in his portrayal. He is night and day which works here and makes it believable. I do want to commend Hayek, Laurie, Christopher McDonald, Neuwirth, Stewart and von Bargen for their roles as well; they definitely rounded out the film for what was needed.
That moves me next the effects. I was happy to see that the creature and I’m assuming practical effects were done by KNB. The creature at the end looked pretty good and the practical effects were solid as well. There is some really bad CGI in this film. It doesn’t hold up and I do think that some of that could have been done practical. I will say that the cinematography was good though.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack of the film. There are some covers of classic songs which I didn’t mind, but the score is very 90’s. It does fit the feel of the film and to be honest, it never takes out of it either. This is another aspect that was solid in my eyes.
Now with that said, this film does have its issues, but I still enjoy it. It is a more modern take of aliens or a parasite taking over and a group of students trying to stop them. Some things are a bit on the nose, but it doesn’t ruin it for me. I thought it was paced well and aside from some weird zoom effects, it builds tension to a satisfying conclusion. The acting for the most part is solid; there are just people I felt were miscast. The practical effects are fine, but the CGI doesn’t hold up. The soundtrack fit for what the movie was going for and definitely makes it feel like the era. This film isn’t great, but I would actually recommend it to horror and non-horror fans alike, especially if you’re into meta horror like Scream. Overall I’d say this film is slightly above average for me.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10