Day #7 of the October Horror-thon takes us back to the 90s in Robert Rodgriguez’s sci-fi horror romp, The Faculty.
Chaz was particularly excited about making me watch this one and it was, you know, fine. I guessed the plot twist before the halfway point and that always kind of ruins a film for me. But the main cast of characters were an enjoyable bunch and whilst there’s nothing really original about the film (it’s self-aware enough to point out its similarities to other body snatching epics, the obvious being The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and The Thing) it’s an entertaining enough angle on a well-worn story.
This 1998 film takes us to Herrington High School, Ohio, where the cliques are real and the stereotypes are living and breathing.
After a short (and bloody) introduction which keys us into the fact that something is already very wrong with the teachers at this school, we’re introduced to the individuals who will eventually make up our Breakfast Club like gang. We’re given Casey (Elijah Wood who genuinely looks 10 years old in this film) our nerd, goth Stokely (our outsider), jock Stan (Shawn Hatosy), head cheerleader Delilah (Jordana Brewster), drug dealer Zeke (Josh Hartnett) and new girl Marybeth (Laura Harris). Casey makes the initial discovery of something seemingly extra-terrestrial on the school football field and slowly all of our main characters are drawn into a web of suspicion and invasion.
The thing that makes this film work is the cast.
Although fresh faced, Elijah Wood gives us a decent performance as the films lead, but he, out of all the main characters, is very two dimensional. He’s nerdy. That’s pretty much it. He’s the one picked on by everyone at school. Sure, he’s brave, but that’s all we’re given. Delilah too, suffers from being incredibly flat – she’s a bitch. That’s literally all we get from her. She’s horrible to her boyfriend, she’s horrible to Casey and for some reason we’re supposed to like her enough to accept that she’s one of the survivor group.
The others have a lot more to them. Stokely, although an outsider aspires to be accepted, she’s got in depth knowledge of sci-fi, she follows sports. Stan doesn’t want to be handed life on a plate just because he’s good at sports, he just wants to do well at school. Zeke? Zeke is the best character in the whole film. Multi-layered, he’s more than a simple drug dealer. Easily the smartest member of the group, he’s willing to take steps that others aren’t, he’s a problem solver, a solution maker, determined to escape his own life by giving others a way out. Although Josh Hartnett doesn’t give us the most inspired performance ever, he’s convincing enough and plays his part very well.
When it comes to the plot, as mentioned its nothing new. It’s a retelling of an old story. There’s enough padding to make it feel like something a bit different. The setting of a high school allows for the intended audience (obviously teenagers) to connect to the situation and the characters. They’re given recognisable stereotypes which they can latch on to emotionally.
The new alien threat is simple enough and the way its executed is a little different which is refreshing and gives us some fun, water filled visuals. The method of telling who an alien is, is all a little too convenient for me but never mind. The dialogue isn’t the strongest or the deepest and the continuous nods to other (better) sci-fi films can feel a little heavy handed. Clearly taking some cues from Wes Craven’s Scream, it’s self-aware and even gives us some sci-fi inspired rules for the characters to work to.
If you weren’t aware that this film takes place in the 90s, then the soundtrack will give you a hint. We get some bangers, but not all of them feel like they work. Opening with The Offspring is always a brave mood but it kind of works in the context of the film (The Kids Aren’t Alright). We’re given Garbage, Soul Asylum and even Oasis at one point which seemed like a bizarre inclusion. There are some truly terrible covers as well, but you can discover those for yourself. They…exist.
Overall The Faculty was a decent enough film, a bit of a mess but that kind of made it…fun? I like the fact that it was a little love note to sci-fi – even if it stole all its ideas from other people. If you’re looking for an easy watch that asks for very little attention from you, The Faculty could be a good shout.
Thank you for reading, tomorrow we venture into The Void.