The Faculty review by The Grim Ringler

Back in the day, when he first came onto the scene, screenwriter Kevin Williamson was considered the bees knees. He was writing scripts that captured pop culture brilliantly, and better yet, he was capture pop horror and making the genre interesting again. Using well-placed nods and self-referential dialogue, he was taking a pretty well worn horror genre and making it seem new again. Sadly though, when looking back on his achievements it become apparent that old Kevin was a bit of a one trick pony. I give to you, Exhibit A The Faculty.

Directed ably by cult fave Robert Rodriquez and well cast with the usual up and comers, Faculty is a very familiar sci-fi horror story with a few new twists. Six students of completely different backgrounds and social castes in the school become aware that first the faculty and then the student body are all acting a bit off. Alas, it seems that aliens are slowly taking over their beloved high school and are intent on transforming the populace and taking over the world. And so it is that our six, bonded by their mutual plight, set out to find the queen alien in the hopes of killing it and freeing the townsfolk of the alien parasites that hide within them. Using a pseudo-drug one of the kids has been selling (hes the drug dealer dont you know) as their weapon, they head to the school and the big football game in the hopes of catching the queen and ending the alien terror. Things begin to fall apart though as, one by one, the kids are transformed and turned against one another as the queen finally makes herself known and the remaining hero-geek must save the day.

At its heart, this isnt a bad film. Rodriguez, working on his first real Hollywood movie if you ask me (I suppose you could say it was Desperado but that still felt so weird and indie that this seems like more of a Hollywood film to me), does a decent job here. He doesnt go overboard with the effects (which are generally effective digital effects for the most part) and tries to give the film an interesting look without getting in the way. The problems start for me with the setting. This is Ohio? Gimme a break. I live in the Mid-West and sure, people like football, but the movie obsesses over how much this town loves football, and if that is the case, that would seem to place this film in Texas. Which is what the place looks like to me. I mean, I dont see a small Ohio town having fireworks at their football games. Call me crazy. Problem two is the plot, which is an amalgam of at least five different classic sci-fi movies. And ya know, thats fine. I can dig the homage vibe here, but when there is nothing new added here it gets old. And fast. The idea of all these kids that have no real connection (save for two of them, the jock and lead cheerleader who break up during the film) getting together to save the day but, good god, could these characters have been more stereotyped? Really? Theres the geek who wants to date the cheerleader (why do they always want that, why not date a fellow nerd you have stuff in common with DUH!), the jock who wants to be a brain, the lesbian that has the hots for the jock (she is an Outsider and says she is gay to keep people outumm, ok), the cheerleader who is not as superficial as she seems, the southern belle who wants to make friends at her new school, and the drug dealer who is really a smart guy who just rebels because he can. Its ridiculous. That the drug guy gets away with ANY of the crap he pulls (he parks his car sideways across parking spotssure, thatd happen) is a joke and its lazy writing. Its relying on one image or moment as the way to define a character. Yeah, umm, no. The geek (a pre-Frodo Elijah Wood) gets a bloody nose, smashed crotch first into a flagpole AND is crying in a bathroom stall, all within the first five minutes. AHHHH! The teachers show the most promise here, each one bitter and angry with a community that worships football above academics, but little is done with them. They too get short-shrifted lazy writing and become caricatures of real teacher types. Its as if Williamson, believing his own hype (this is the guy that wrote Scream and created the I Know What You Did Last Summer franchise), just figured he could write a story about archetypes, aliens, and clever self-referential quips and everything would work out in the end. No.

My biggest gripe though is with the script itself. No one really says anything of much interest and most of the logic is straight out of science fiction films, which is pressing the homage button a bit too hard to me. The movie even ends with a bucket of crappy bad teen movie lines. Hell, the fact that the lesbian girl changes from black clothes and dark gothy makeup to a purple out fit and girly makeup because she gets the jock is a JOKE! As is the fact that the geek gets the cheerleader. Where does this happen? Honestly, where? Other than inyou got it, bad teen movies. No believability is built within the characters or this world and you just have to assume that these kids know what they are talking about. The big surprise is that the drug dealers new homemade drug will kill the alien parasites within the human hosts. So you get a lot of - no, dood, do this drug and prove you are human scenes. Ugh. Perhaps saddest of all is that the villian, the queen alien is a good character. Perhaps the strongest in the film. She was written about as well as anything Williamson has done, yet they white wash the loneliness and despair of this creature that lost her world and wanted to make this one her home. Instead they make her a monstrous villain (and the monster CGI is pretty dope, I have to admit) that they have to destroy. Hell, heres a question, why dont the other aliens know its her? Shouldnt they know who their queen is? Ugh.

The sad thing is that I do like this film as what it is. It surely isnt good, but it isnt bad either. Its jut lazy. The young actors do well with what they are given, but really arent given much. Clea Duvall (who I am in love with) who plays the lesbian is very good in the film but her character and all she stands for is betrayed by the script and she, and the geek, fall apart at the end of the film. Its like, ah, we won, lets all change who we are and be happy. So that this film which wants to be about how you can be yourself and be strong and brave and beautiful and wicked cool, shows you at the end that if you conform you will be happier. What? And that, really, is the big thing Williamson missed here. Great science fiction has a point. It has a greater message. This film does not. It wants to say that conformity is bad but then shows the kids sorta do it anyway at the end. Which could have been BRILLIANT if that had been a sort of sad irony, that these kids that fought conformity still do it to be like everyone else in the end. What this film needed was a core of reality. It needed to be like the film Welcome to the Dollhouse and the films of that ilk that show school as the horror show it can be and where the losers are still the losers no matter who they might save or do well by. This could have been a very dark, very creepy science fiction film that took the works of the past and built on them. Why does the alien have to be the villain? Why do the losers have to become cool kids? Hollywood movies dont always have to be mindless, soulless, heartless, brainless robots. You learn the system and work within it.

Sadly, this film, which wants to be about conformity really only proves in the end that to succeed you need to conform to the system and not find your own path, which is a shame. Thankfully the cast and director have gone off to better things. Kevin Williamson hasnt been so lucky. Hes a good writer, when hes not being lazy. And I really do think there are some great things in the Scream movies, which he created. Heck, look at the ending for Scream and you see how dark he can write. This isnt a bad film. Its far from great but there are fun moments and the actors are likable even if their characters arent. I would be interested to see if anything was cut from this, as there are some points where the film jumps deeper into the plot all of a sudden and it makes you think that there are some moments that were lost. This is a fun dollar rental but I dont know that Id buy it if I didnt already own it. Sadly, this is typical nineties horror. It doesnt do anything new, and really, doesnt want to. Shame.


6 out of 10 Jackasses
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