Original release date: December 25th, 1998
Running time: 104 minutes
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writers: Kevin Williamson, David Wechter, Bruce Kimmel
Composer: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Shawn Hatosy, Elijah Wood, Robert Patrick, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Salma Hayek, Bebe Neuwirth, Jon Stewart, Usher
When I was at high school there wasn’t a moment when I didn’t think something wasn’t wrong with the faculty. Maybe it was the way they bored us to death during assembly every morning and would wait until the bell rang before dismissing us from class and never a moment sooner…it could also be because they drilled it into us that our lives would be ruined without hope of repair should we fail any of their classes. Whatever the reasons, they outweighed the logic any grown-up could throw at me and I was convinced on many occasions that at my school our faculty were anything but human…
Released just a few years after I’d left, The Faculty was a film that played right into those teenage paranoid thoughts. Set at Herrington High School, it more or less centres on Casey (Elijah Wood), a bookish kid who’s also a photographer for his school’s paper. He’s far from being popular and has a hard time getting through the day without some jock picking on him or girls laughing at him because of it.
There are other outcasts as well, such as Stokes (Clea DuVall). With her dark clothes and eye make-up she’s ostracised for being a goth and lesbian although she’s really neither. There’s also Zeke (Josh Hartnett), he’s a bit of a loner who’s repeating his senior year despite being intelligent enough to be able to concoct his own recreational drugs. Then we have the popular kids; Stan (Shawn Hatosy) is on the football team but wants to quit and focus on his studies, meanwhile his girlfriend Delilah (Jordana Brewster) is the editor of the school paper and worried she won’t be able to date him if he quits. Marybeth (Laura Harris), whose parents were killed in a car crash, has just moved to the area and started school there and doesn’t fit in with anyone yet, but her cheery outlook on life makes her an easy person to get on with.
However, their lives are thrown into further chaos when they start to notice the faculty’s behaving a little odder than usual. First there’s Coach Joe Willis (Robert Patrick) who lately just stands around on the field and drinks a lot of water. Principal Drake (Bebe Neuwirth), Miss Burke (Famke Janssen) and the usually demure Nurse Harper (Salma Hayek) all start to behave a little more like predators hunting prey and even the elderly Mrs. Olson (Piper Laurie) looks a bit shifty too.
Once they realise the entire faculty’s been taken over by aliens, the group then learn the students at Herrington High School are next to be infected by the slug-like creatures in a step towards world domination. But why start with a little town?
If you were going to take over the world, would you blow up the White House, Independence Day style, or sneak in through the back door?
Having to rely on each other is something that doesn’t come naturally to these kids and it’s not long before their trust issues start getting in the way. The biggest obstacle for them is trying to work out if they’re all still human or if one of the creatures has already infiltrated them. Zeke’s pharmaceutical skills comes in handy then as they figure out a way to test each other, but with the town’s population already quickly turning and hunting down remaining humans, time is running out for them to come up with a plan that’ll hopefully result in saving the world.
The Faculty remains one of my guilty pleasures from the late 90s, released at a time when I’d visit the cinema at least twice a week to watch whatever was playing. Though borrowing heavily from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) with its sense of paranoia and feeling of isolation, it was a film I enjoyed a lot, largely because of the clever scripting by Kevin Williamson, who also wrote Scream (1996) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997). The characters were all somehow easy to relate to and the cast included familiar faces from film and television that spanned a couple of generations.
Together with a soundtrack that included The Kids Aren’t Alright by The Offspring, as well as tracks by Soul Asylum, Garbage, Stabbing Westward and Creed, The Faculty seemed to have its finger on the pulse and was determined to tap into whatever kids were listening to, wearing and talking about at the time. For me it worked really well and I was so engrossed in the action I didn’t see the shock revelation coming at all, which left me feeling a bit silly for not working it out much sooner!
Although high school feels like a million years ago, and I probably was being a little paranoid to think my gym teacher was a creature from outer space, it’s still good know I wasn’t the only one.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .