The Faculty (1998) – Robert Rodriguez

A Kevin Williamson script, a Robert Rodriguez film, and a cast back to the rafters including Elijah Wood, Salma Hayek, Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Jon Stewart, Robert Patrick, Usher, Bebe Neuwirth, and Daniel von Bargen.

Sounds decent right?

Honestly, it ends up being a pretty solid science fiction film, giving a high school spin on the old Body Snatchers theme, incorporating Williamson’s very self-aware style of writing and pop culture knowledge.

Moving the body snatchers story to a high school is actually an interesting twist, because in high school if you don’t conform to the societal norms of established cliques you are automatically an outsider. So would one notice if an invasion happened?

The younger cast plays the students, while the adult performers play the titular faculty. When Casey (Wood) discovers something strange on the football field it starts a paranoia-filled descent into terror as a breakfast club of students is thrown together when those around them seem to change and become something else.

Fast-paced, and delivered in Rodriguez efficient and stylish storytelling, I actually hadn’t watched this one in years. Sure, some of the computer-generated images don’t hold up, but the story, message of individuality, performances, and practical effects stand the test of time nicely.

Packed with knowing nods and homages to other horror films, The Faculty is a fairly honest look at high school when one feels like one is an alien, or that everyone else around them is.

It’s really something seeing this cast knowing what lay ahead for some of them. It also totally revitalizes my excitement for Rodriguez films, I like his storytelling style, and I do enjoy it when he plays with genres.

Wood’s Casey is a very recognizable character, and while I wasn’t bullied like he was in high school I recognize myself in him. In fact in most of the main characters I can see pieces of myself, and no doubt other viewers can as well, and yet high school is still the way high school is (and in some cases worse).

I like that this film can work simply as a straightforward body snatchers retelling, or it can be dug into a little more and you can walk away with themes of conformity, individuality, and following your own bliss.

As a teen, you feel no one understands you, no matter what your experience. You feel you’re the first person to ever go through any of these things, so everyone and every Thing seem to be against you, it’s no wonder that high school is such a perfect setting for conflicts with aliens, monsters, and the like.

One more reason I would never want to do it again. (Though I do miss the time period and the people.)

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