Dimension Films // 1998 // 104 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // June 21st, 1999
The students at Herrington High always suspected their teachers were from another planet...they were right!
Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Williamson team up to crank out another modern teen flick, this time with a sci-fi edge.
Upon first viewing this film I had the expectation that Williamson would do for the sci-fi genre what he did for the horror genre with Scream. I was wrong. Williamson does not set out to change the standards of your everyday Invasion of the Body Snatchers but, instead creates an intelligent and entertaining rip-off of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In combination with director/editor/composer/all-around-movie-handy-guy Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn) and a great cast of actors (Elijah Wood, Clea DuVall, Josh Hartnet, Jon Stewart, Usher Raymond, Robert Patrick, Piper Laurie, and Salma Hayek, just to name a few) you'd expect The Faculty to be one kick-ass film; unfortunately, it isn't. Don't go into this film with raised expectations like I did because you will only be let down. No, it's not horrible (it can be downright entertaining at moments), but it isn't what you'd expect to be produced from all the talent put into this film.
Plotwise, the film revolves around a group of high school students in Ohio who come to the realization that alien parasites are infecting their teachers and slowly taking over the school. Before long the faculty is able to infect the local police, students, and townspeople; until the few high school students who know the truth are the only humans left in Harrington, Ohio. Each group member brings their resources to aide in the fight against the aliens (from the sci-fi geek's knowledge about alien invasions to the drug dealer's alien dehydrating "magic dust"), which comes to a head at the weekly high school football game during which the students hunt for the "queen" alien.
The film cleverly plays on high school paranoia and stereotypes, bringing each to extremes for some good laughs and genuinely frightening moments. Much like Scream, The Faculty is an intelligent movie that recognizes itself as a cliché and constantly references other sci-fi films like Men in Black and Independence Day. What hurts The Faculty the most is the fact that it doesn't change the rules of alien invasion films like Scream did with slasher-flicks. It complains about rip-offs and clichés but ends up being a cliché itself. From anyone else, this film would get away fine with being unoriginal, but from Rodriguez and Williamson it is unacceptable.
Buena Vista is Buena Vista, and it doesn't appear as if their DVDs are going to change anytime soon. Therefore, as a Buena Vista DVD, can those playing at home guess what you get? That's absolutely correct! Solid video (non-anamorphic) and audio transfer with no extras (except for a trailer). The video is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen with very few flaws. The black level on this disc is perfect which works to help build suspense in many of the film's scenes.
Probably the best part of this disc is the audio, which is simply outstanding. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track makes great use of surround effects and generates some good scares that are difficult to do in 2 channel tracks. Also on the audio side is an awesome soundtrack, which seems to follow Williamson around on his movies and TV shows.
In comparison to the theater I saw The Faculty in (which was, and still is, really run down), the DVD almost surpasses it in quality.
Those video problems I mentioned include brief (but visible) noise on the transfer during some of the lighter scenes and a good deal of bleeding around red titles at the end of the film. On discs with weaker audio tracks I wouldn't even care about these issues, however they take away from what would be an otherwise perfect transfer. The transfer is also non-anamorphic, which really doesn't concern me as of right now, but ten years down the road I'll probably be a little peeved that I have to see black bars on my widescreen TV (making me question why I bought a widescreen TV).
Then there are the extra features; rather, the extra feature: a trailer. Standard Buena Vista fare. But hey, they're Disney, they do what they want and we still buy it. I'd love to have more, however the movie still makes the disc. You put 2,000 features on a disc with a movie that sucks, and I won't even look at it.
Also on DVD is the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The film is dated but, for those who have not seen it, renting the DVD will do you a good service in seeing how a film can really build up suspense through paranoia.
Creepy, entertaining, funny, and smart, but still clichéd to death. Go in with lowered expectations and you'll enjoy the film a lot more.
Narrowly acquitted on its high replayability factor. Suspense and humor are the true saviors of The Faculty, not originality.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean Fitzgibbons; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer