Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Faculty

Year: 1998
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Screenplay: Kevin Williamson, from a story by David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Shawn Hatosy, Robert Patrick, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, Salma Hayek, Daniel von Bargen, Usher Raymond
Running Time: 104 minutes
Genre: Science-fiction, horror

Summary: Herrington High School is a perfectly normal school in Ohio. The star quarterback, Stan (Hatosy), wants to quit sports to concentrate on his academic work. Stan's girlfriend, Delilah (Brewster), is the head cheerleader and editor of the school paper. The frequently bullied Casey (Wood) photographs for the newspaper and has a massive unrequited crush on Delilah. Zeke (Hartnett) is a very intelligent but lacklustre student, preferring to concentrate on selling fake IDs, pornographic videos and his own home-made drugs to his fellow students. While goth girl and science-fiction fan Stokely (DuVall) is happy being left alone. Meanwhile new girl Marybeth (Harris) is just trying to fit in and make friends in the new school.
However, they soon become aware of strange changes taking place in the behaviour of the staff and fellow students. They quickly begin to realise that the faculty and most of the students are being infected by mind-controlling alien parasites. The problem is finding out who is infected and who isn't and whether there is any way to stop the parasites before it's too late.

Opinions: A mix of science-fiction, horror and teenage high-school comedy-drama, this film is an entertaining blend of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Thing (1982) and The Breakfast Club (1985) all of which are explicitly referenced.
The screenplay is by Kevin Williamson, who at the time was one of the hottest scriptwriters in Hollywood having written Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and Scream 2 (1998) as well as creating the TV series Dawson's Creek (1998-2003). The film features many Williamson hallmarks such as quick-witted dialogue, multiple pop-culture references as well as Williamson's genuine interest in and liking for his teen characters.
The movie benefits a lot from Robert Rodriguez's typically stylish and fast-moving direction. The main cast of young, up and coming actors are effective and receive good support from their more established adult co-stars, including Robert Patrick as the enjoyably sinister Coach, and Famke Janssen as a repressed English teacher. Also comedian, satirist, TV presenter and host of The Daily Show Jon Stewart appears as a science teacher and there is also a cameo from Harry Knowles, founder and maintainer of movie news and review site Ain't It Cool News.
This is an enjoyable and interesting variation on some familiar themes. Also a high school, with it's emphasis on conformity and the pressure to fit in, is a perfect setting for "mind-control" horror.

Shawn Hatosy, Josh Hartnett, Laura Harris, Clea DuVall and Elijah Wood in The Faculty

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