Next to Disturbing Behavior, The Faculty has been one of my favorite movies on the horrors of high school conformity. Set in rural Ohio, a ...

We Don’t Need No Alien Invasion: The Faculty


Next to Disturbing Behavior, The Faculty has been one of my favorite movies on the horrors of high school conformity. Set in rural Ohio, a band of teenage misfits must fight the invasion of their school by parasitic aliens from outer space.

At its core The Faculty is about the individual versus the collective and the pressure to conform and fit in that is the war cry of every teen angst film since The Breakfast Club. The soundtrack reinforces this theme with songs like David Bowie’s Changes, Soul Asylum’s School's Out and Class of '99’s grungy cover of Another Brick in the Wall. It’s been done before and done better, so what makes The Faculty different?

For a late 90’s horror flick The Faculty has a surprising all star cast. Selma Hayek is the drugged up school nurse in a faculty ensemble that includes Famke Jansen as the geek turned gorg Mrs. Burke, John Stewart as the science teacher, Bebe Neuwirth of Frasier fame as the principal and T-1000 Robert Patrick as the creepy coach. The cast of students is equally ambitious. Clea DuVall appears as the lesbian sci-fi nerd Stokely, alongside Josh Hartnett as the brainy drug peddler Zeke, and Elijah Wood as the class wuss Casey.
The alien invasion angle fits surprisingly well into the film’s high school setting. Hearkening back to films like I was a Teenage Frankenstein, it shows us a world where the authority figures—adults, teachers and law enforcement officers—are turning the children of tomorrow into monsters. But their monstrosity isn’t in how they are different, but how they are the same, an endless line of polite, serene clones.



Some might say that The Faculty is just Invasion of the Body Snatchers redux, but the movie is ready for skeptics who think they’ve seen it all before. Like Wes Craven’s Scream, it pays homage to its original roots. In the library, Stokley and Casey talk about Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Puppet Master, admitting to themselves as well as the audience how ridiculous an alien invasion of their school sounds.

One more thing the film has going for it is Robert Rodriguez’s direction. Coming off of From Dusk Till Dawn and his Four Rooms short, the Misbehavers, Rodriguez uses The Faculty to stretch his creative legs. This is evident in the cinematography. In one of my favorite scenes, Stokley and new girl Mary Beth are framed by ominous looking streamers in a long shot of the two talking on otherwise empty gym bleachers. This image of writhing streamers is then repeated in the locker room in the shadows of twisting alien tentacles.

It's too bad that after this he had to blight movie screens with his Spy Kids series.

Though the Faculty’s message of “we don’t need no education” may be trite and overdone, the film takes the two genres of high school drama and horror to mix up a new interpretation for the late 90’s

So how does The Faculty measure up for you?

Please leave a comment.

6 comments:

  1. this is one of my favorite movies, and the soundtrack is great, yes, i dare buy movie soundtracks to horror movies

    it holds up really well, great review

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  2. Unfortunately I don't remember this movie well enough to form any of my own opinions, but I do remember it enough to agree with everything you say, especially about its self-awareness, which is one of my favorite things about more recent horror. I'll have to watch it again now to analyze the cinematography :)

    Also, Disturbing Behavior is one of my very favorite movies. I was so happy that you mentioned it.

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  3. This is one of those films that I never think about, unless it's on TV or someone (like you) mentions it. I always enjoy a viewing of The Faculty when it's on - to me it is like one of those 50's sci fi flicks.

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  4. When reviews of this flick come up, I'm surprised at how little the drug angle - not only does the dope dealer line up against the forces of the lockstep alien educational fascists, but his home-brewed dope is one of the few weapons they have to save people - get's discussed. The oddly benign depiction of drugs in the film is, to my mind, one of its strangest features.

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  5. One of my favourite movies, admittedly for the eye-candy, but the thing that stands out for me in this movie is how well written the characters are.

    The film plays on stereotype and punches its message home with incredibly three dimensional main characters that force you to see past said stereotype and emote with their hidden depths, strengths and vulnerabilities.

    It may not be the most original idea and the blurb on the back is nothing new, but the film itself is great to watch. Fast, punchy, funny and will always remain one of my favourites.

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  6. Sire Jorge,

    I too live on the edge and buy movie soundtracks. Some are duds but some can be very rewarding.

    pomegranitestars,

    My husband introduced me to that movie! I really love the janitor when he takes a bunch of the kids off the cliff shouting "Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone!" So epic. I have to review that one soon.

    Pax,
    It's an old favorite of mine too.

    CRWM,
    I'm glad you pointed out the drug connection. It's something that's always stood out to me. Maybe tweaking=exercising our free will to get high. Something the unified, parasitic aliens aren't into.

    Gabi,

    It's a surprisingly good film with good performances even by Usher as the new team captain! I'm thankful he didn't try to push a rap version of Brick in the Wall on the soundtrack a la Ja Rule with Fast and the Furious

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