Thursday, October 16, 2014

MR The Faculty

This time let's have a look at a fun underrated tribute to old alien invasion flicks from the 1950s!

Friday the 13th series - Friday the 13th (2009)
Book One (Wildstorm) - Book TwoFriday the 13th (Avatar Press)
Freddy vs Jason
Elm Street series - A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (WildStorm)A Nightmare on Elm Street (Avatar Press)
Halloween series - Halloween (2007) - HII (2009)
Halloween (Chaos! Comics) / NightDance - 30 Years of Terror
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 1 & 2
Chucky series - Curse of Chucky / Chucky (Devil's Due Publishing)
Candyman series
 Re-Animator series
Hatchet 1
Hack/Slash: My First Maniac - Me Without You - Omnibus Vol. 1 - Friday the 31st
Series 1 (DDP)Hack/Slash Meets Zombies Vs Cheerleaders - Series 2 (Image)
Revival Vol. 1 - Vol. 2
Tucker & Dale / Cabin in the Woods
Darkman series
Gremlins - Gremlins 2: The New BatchCritters seriesTremors seriesJames Gunn's Slither
 Troll 2
The Thing from Another WorldJohn Carpenter's The Thing
John Carpenter's Prince of DarknessJohn Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness
Jacob's LadderJohn Carpenter's The WardEvent Horizon
DeepStar Six / Leviathan / Lords of the Deep / The Evil BelowThe Abyss
Deep Blue Sea

Movie: The Faculty 
Directed by Robert Rodriguez 
Release date 1998
Genre Science-fiction/horror film
Country USA

The idea behind The Faculty originaly came about around 1990.

David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel wrote a first script in the early 90s, but nobody was interested in such a film at the time.

But following the huge unexpected success of Wes Craven's Scream, a more self-referential meta story was suddenly in. A few Scream sequels would follow and this kind of self-aware genre-tribute were popping up left and right. Miramax became interested in this script. They went ahead and decided to simpl get the Scream's writer himself Kevin Williamson to do a few rewrites and take care of the screenplay.

It was finally Dimension Films who would produce the actual film almost a decade later, in the late 1990s. Despite the basic story being already pitch perfect on the first try. But the dialogues had to be rewritten and updated to something more contemporary, since it would revolve around young actors in a high school.

And that is when Robert Rodriguez was finally attached to the project, with such a great script ready to go. Rodriguez was off an impressive start in his career. From his own great success on a few indie films, Desperado and the similarly-themed film From Dusk Till Dawn. Robert Rodriguez wanted to explore a lot of ideas and genres, and this one was the perfect film to do next. A science-fiction/horror just waiting for the right director to turn it into a reality.

The movie itself is a sort of tribute to Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, a modern High School-take on the same general idea, Body Snatchers is even referred to in the film directly.

The Faculty would star a lot of popular faces familiar to moviegoes and a few up-and-coming young actors that have since become well-established figures in Hollywood. Such as Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Robert Patrick, Salma Hayek, Shawn Hatosy, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Bebe Neuwirth, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Usher Raymond and even Jon Stewart who wasn't yet the host of The Daily Show at the time.

Our story takes place at the small local school of Herrington High School, in Ohio.

Lately there's been a lot of budgetary cuts to the school's budget. And it shows. The school's falling to pieces, there's barely any material left for the students, and everything's put into the school's football team instead.

After a strange incident on the field (did someone attack the team's football coach?), we meet the teachers discussing the budget constraints. Later that day, the principal is seen running back for her missing keys at the end of the school day. When she is suddenly attacked by the coach!...

What is going on here exactly?

The next day the teachers' behavior is getting more and more erratic. We are introduced to our protagonists one by one (think a fun opening credits from a 90s TV series).

There's Casey Connor (Elijah Wood) - a young photographer for the school newspaper who is always getting bullied, Delilah Profitt (Jordana Brewster) - the editor-in-chief of that newspaper and also a cheerleader, Stan Rosado (Shawn Hatosy) - Delilah's boyfriend who is currently thinking about quitting the school's football team and finally Zeke Tyler (Josh Hartnett) - currently repeating a school year and now apparently making homemade drugs for quick cash. There's also this teacher that is sad to see a brilliant young man like Zeke doing stuff like that, he was such a promising student before falling behind. And today marks the first day of this new student from Atlanta, Marybeth Louise Hutchinson (Laura Harris). The first person she meets is this rebel goth girl and outcast Stokely Mitchell (Clea DuVall), aka Stokes. A big scifi nerd.

While eating alone by himself on the football field, Casey finds this strange creature on the ground. He goes to the science teacher (Jon Stewart) to examine it. Can it be some kind of new creature?

Delilah wants to investigate the teachers for a news article for the paper, she breaks into the teacher's loung with Casey. While looking for something frontpage-worthy, the teachers come back to the room. They hide in the closet and witness the coach attacking the school nurse (Salma Hayek!!). They quickly run outside. But by the time they call the cops it's already too late... The nurse doesn't show any sign of struggle.. But to Casey they clearly seem to have been "turned". Like the coach. They even get the police in the principal's office.. (To take the local police over as well?) What's exactly going on here?

At home, Casey's parents think he's on drugs. He tries to run away during the night, but "they're" watching him! The next day Casey tries telling this to everyone. He thinks the teachers have been taken over by... something. He's not entirely sure what. Possibly aliens. He asks Stokes for her scifi-nerd's point of view. Can it be "body snatchers" or something? The others think he's crazy of course. Nobody believes him, of course. And that's when the science teacher comes back to class.. and reveals all of this to be true! He confronts them! He's infected! They're forced to cut his fingers, those start crawling all over them in return! Zeke stabs him in the eye with one of his homemade drugs, and it works! It's killing "it".

They notice everyone might already be controlled by these aliens by now!

The only way to fight these things back is to grab some more of the drug. They go to Zeke's place where they're able to test some theories. These things need water apparently. But can they trust each other? They all need to take each a dose of Zeke's drug to prove they're still human (in a great tribute to John Carpenter's The Thing). To much surprise, Delilah's infected! She runs off destroying most of the lab and the rest of the drug supply in the process.

Stokes comes to the conclusion these infected might work like a hivemind, with a "Queen" creature having the control over all of these bodies. They must defeat this leader to get things back to normal before it spreads through the rest of the country!

Back at the school there's this big football game going on. Where the aliens hope to infect the entire town and the opposing team as well.

The princpal must be the queen! They isolate her at the gym and shoot her. Stan goes outside to see if things returned back like before. But it didn't work! The coach grabs him and it's too late for him! Zeke tries to get to his car for the rest of the drugs, and he's attacked by that teacher that usually worried for him from earlier. He crashes a car in the parking lot, her head escapes!

Back at the gym Marybeth is revealed to be the queen! She tells them how her homeplanet used to be covered by oceans, and she's taking over the Earth because of her dying world. Stokes gets infected. Zeke and Casey fight this huge monster she turns into, her real form. Finally Casey is able to stab her in the eye with all the remaining needles...

The movie ends with a nice epilogue set a few months later. Things are finally back to normal. Now all our heroes are enjoying their happy ending. And their lives turned for the best since the invasion. Casey is celebrated as a local hero by the news, even though people don't really understand or entirely belive the whole alien scenario. And, hey! No one actually died! Everyone's shown to have survived the infection, some fingers missing or head reattached notwithstanding!

The Faculty is a pretty fun film. A well-made fun and witty take on Invasion Of The Body Snatchers,
with some Night of the Creeps thrown in there for good measure. It's just such a fun film.

It has a great clever script, it's a fun alien invasion film. Playing with these horror film/teen movies archetypes. By the end the "jock" is with the "goth", the "geek" gets the "hottie" and the drug dealer-guy lands the highest-achieving place at school.

The film takes a lot of influence and homages from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, with a bit of The Thing thrown in there. And you could even see some of The Breakfast Club regarding its unique cast of colorful characters, that are no mere stereotypes (though it's used to introduce them). It goes to say that those have since been ripped off so many times, you can see the influence it had directly at the time.

After a quick start, Robert Patrick gets to play a creepily frightening "robotic" alien-infested drone, proving he can still be as badass as he was in T2. There's some great performance from the entire cast! The guys and the ladies did all their roles perfectly! Rodriguez got his regular Salma Hayek once more, albeit in a minor role here.  A special mention for the pretty good performance from Jon Stewart on screen as this "Professor Furlong", a clear little tribute to Robert Patrick's co-star from Terminator 2. Although despite being heavily marketed, Usher Raymond as "Gabe Santora" is barely not really in the film.

There's lots of twists and surprise as the film goes along. There's a notably great scene in which Elijah's on drugs when the gang starts doubting each other. The plot is pretty fun, this alien invasion basically taking place in this remote small little town, so the invasion can literally begin "through the backdoor". There's also a ton of allusions and references to the genre.

The film has fun with the usual tropes of the science-fiction genre, playing these ideas and yet feels so fun and fresh. One can also see how the scariest thing might just be how kids are bullied at school though, in opposition to the more fat-fetched aspect of these alien invader creatures...

While Robert Rodriguez himself did not score this film (at time he didn't use to do that for all his films, at least the few he had done by then, I guess he would have nowadays though), the music was here composed by Marco Beltrami instead. Marco Beltrami did score a few horror films of his own including his regular work on Wes Craven's films amongst others. It's great, creepy and fits the film appropriately. The film can give a certain vintage nostaglia-vibe due in part to its soundtrack completely composed of 1990s hits. There's lots of fun alternative an indie rock songs from that time, opening the film to the kickass tune of The Offspring's "The Kids Aren't Alright"!

Overall, Robert Rodriguez' The Faculty is a very fun and entertaining film. Clearly having fun non-stop.

With solid special effects. Although the creature can look a bit shake at the end, in its CGi rendition, there's some great puppetry involved in the closer shots.

It features a great fantastic cast.

It's such a fun film, highly rewatchable. A cult film done right!

All in all, it's a pretty fun film (I can't repeat that enough, can I ?). Highly Recommended for all fans of the genre. A well made intelligent tribute to the science-fiction/horror genre.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Necronomicons!

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