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?
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About author: Monster Scholar
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