101 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, December 25, 1998
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Starring Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Shawn Hatosy, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuworth, Robert Patrick, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen & Jon Stewart
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 20%|
LETTERBOX: COULDN'T HURT
Lights out on this one - it's a horror flick, after all. Low-end CGI effects might come across more realistic on the small screen, but short of that corny horror flicks are always more fun at home where you can throw popcorn at the screen without getting it in a stranger's hair.
'Breakfast Club' clones fight body snatchers in 'The Faculty'
"Scream" writer Kevin Williamson's has become the Steven King of screenwriters -- a one-time genius in his field, now banging out semi-annual pulp horror scripts and very occasionally rekindling the spark that made his early work so memorable.
"The Faculty" is his latest screenplay put to film, and while the concept is slyly clever -- take the kids from "The Breakfast Club" and drop them in to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" -- and kicks up some of his still-hot embers, after outlining the gimmick he wrote the rest of the movie on auto-pilot, pausing only to pack it with his spot-on, stock-in-trade pop culture references.
The plot: Parasite aliens take over the teachers in an Ohio high school as the first step toward turning all of humanity into hosts for their symbiant race.
The cast: Elijah Wood ("Deep Impact") as Anthony Michael Hall, the class nerd who suspects the truth but can't convince anyone. Teenage soap opera veteran Jordana Brewster as Molly Ringwald, the superficial head cheerleader who is Wood's friend when the cool people aren't looking. John Hartnett ("Halloween: H20") as Judd Nelson, the smarter-than-he-seems druggie who figures out the dope he deals makes the aliens dissolve like salt on slugs. Shawn Hatosy ("In & Out") as Emilio Estevez, star quarterback who by quitting the team to focus on academics avoids becoming one of the first student aliens (the parasites start with the popular kids). And finally newcomer Clea Duvall as Ally Sheedy, the acidic outcast in heavy eye-liner who changes into spring fashions and washes her face in the last act so she can kiss the football star.
Along with a sweet southern belle new to the school (Laura Harris), this committee of clique leaders play hide and seek in the school's halls (again, like "The Breakfast Club") while trying to discover which faculty member (including Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuworth, Robert Patrick, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen and Jon Stewart) is the alien leader so they can kill it and -- of course -- return everyone else to normal.
Directed by the slick and indulgent hand of Robert Rodriguez ("Desperado," "From Dusk Till Dawn") with a stylistic flair that could almost be described as horror noir, "The Faculty" comes awful close to a creating a crafty fusion between the John Hughes and pod people genres.
Unfortunately, Williamson's habit of falling back on recycled ideas without improving them leaves the alleged climax sorely lacking credibility.
Without giving too much away, suffice to say if the people that turn out to be aliens really were aliens, the good guys would have been dead in the first 20 minutes, and that's just too big a plot chasm to overlook when you're paying eight bucks.