DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
FACULTY, THE (director/editor: Robert Rodriguez; screenwriters: Kevin Williamson/ story by David Wechter & Bruce Kimmel; cinematographer: Enrique Chediak; cast: Elijah Wood (Casey Conner), Josh Hartnett (Zeke), Clea DuVall (Stokely), Jordana Brewster (Delilah Profitt), Laura Harris (Marybeth Louise Hutchinson), Shawn Hotosy (Stan), Salma Hayek (Nurse Harper), Famke Janssen (Miss Burke), Piper Laurie (Mrs. Olson), Bebe Neuwirth (Principal Drake), Robert Patrick (Coach Willis), Jon Stewart (Mr. Furlong), Usher Raymond (Gabe); Runtime: 104; Dimension Films; 1998)

 
"All the students were stereotypes."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A meant to be chic sci-fi film, set in an Ohio high school, that pays homage to a number of other trashy genre horror classics such as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Thing." But, more surprisingly, it also pays homage to "The Breakfast Club." In the film's best moments, it explores teen relationships and the pressure put on teens to succeed by parents and from peer pressure to conform with the group. The fast-paced story, the crisp editing, the atmospheric music, plus all the schlock horror it could throw out, helped make this silly venture watchable for the young generation.

The following six alienated students are used to represent Herrington High School: the depressive outsider, the sci-fi specialist and unattractive loner, Stokely (Clea DuVall); the jock who is upset that his grade 'D' was changed to an 'A' and quits playing football because he doesn't want special treatment, Stan (Shawn Hotosy); the new student from Atlanta who is as sweet as pie but makes no friends here, Marybeth (Laura Harris); the beautiful but stuck up bitchy cheerleader and editor of the school newspaper, the acid-tongued Delilah (Jordana Brewster); the nice, brainy nerd who gets bullied by the jocks and apologizes to them for taking up their space, Casey (Elijah Wood); and, the underachieving school science whiz, hustler, and dealer of homemade speed that is inhaled, who is doing his bit to deconstruct America, Zeke (Josh Hartnett). All the students were stereotypes.

 "The Faculty" featured a running battle between authority figures (the faculty) and the misfits (the teenagers), as the teens try to save their school and the world from an alien master killer.

When an unknown parasite is found on the campus grounds and brought into biology class by Casey, the teacher observes that this creature is something he has never seen before and will call in the experts at the university to identify it. The creature comes to life when it becomes moist and suddenly has sharp teeth, and soon it disappears from the fish bowl it was stored in.

Members of the faculty are taken over by the thirsty alien parasite and become docile, smiling, and emotionless human clones. There are only six diverse students left to defeat the aliens and they must learn to put aside their differences and work together. But they don't know who is an alien and who is human. The only way they can find out, is if they snort Zeke's homemade caffeine concoction to destroy the alien (drugs are cool in this film--they only kill the bad guys, which is the most daring thing the film stated about the rebellious students).

All the faculty members are also stereotypes: Coach Willis (Robert Patrick), the first victim, is the gung-ho football coach and hot-tempered disciplinarian; Mrs. Olson (Piper Laurie), the cautionary veteran music teacher is the second victim. Principal Drake (Bebe Neuwirth) soon afterwards becomes an alien. She is a repulsive purveyor of false educational standards and represents the Establishment. It's only a matter of a day and a half before the rest of the staff including the popular science teacher Mr. Furlong (Jon Stewart), the bored literature teacher Mr. Tate (Daniel Von Bargen), the sniffling school nurse, Harper (Salma Hayek); and, the timid Miss Burke (Famke Janssen) succumb.

It's a battle of students versus faculty, as the students figure out what to do by discussing what other films and literary works did when confronted by the same aliens. Amusingly, the students think that the past films may have been part of a plot to fool everybody into not taking alien invaders seriously and therefore making it possible for them to let their guard down for a real alien attack.

Robert Rodriguez ("El Mariachi"/"Desperado") is the director and Kevin Williamson ("Scream") is the screenwriter. They have created a film that lacks suspense, lacks freshness, lacks wit, and suffers from some rather lame special effects. If there is enjoyment to be found, it's in the frantic moments when the students are saying some of the vilest things that come up out of their wiser-than-they-should-be mouths. It's a cult film for those with a taste for earwigs, a stomach for slop, and an appetite for mind altering drugs... . Gee! I wonder why I wasn't more taken with the film!

REVIEWED ON 1/1/2001     GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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