Friday, 20 September 2013

The Faculty (1998)

Robert Rodriguez hasn't made many bad movies. I won't be silly enough to say that he hasn't made ANY bad movies, despite the fact that I have somehow avoided the ones that people consider real stinkers (*cough* The Adventures Of Sharkboy And Lavagirl *cough*), but he's got a pretty good hit rate, in my opinion. Thankfully, The Faculty is one of his many good movies.

It's a teen sci-fi horror written by Kevin Williamson AKA Kevin "Scream" Williamson that also happens to feature one of the best casts assembled for such material. And Usher.

Herrington High is a typical American school, but things are changing. When Casey Connor (Elijah Wood ) isn't being picked up by bullies, and having his legs splayed to allow them to smash his crotch into the flagpole, he's observing life around him. Some things are strange, like star football player Stan (Shawn Hatosy) deciding that he wants to concentrate on academic pursuits as opposed to sports, some things are just nice to observe, like Delilah Profitt (Jordana Brewster), and some things are strange lifeforms found on the school grounds that could indicate a potential takeover by alien life forms. Yeah, that last thing leads to Casey teaming up with Stan, Delilah and some other students as they realise that their school may be ground zero for an alien invasion. High school may not seem to be a standard battlefield for an alien invasion, but as Casey says: "If you were going to take over the world, would you blow up the White House 'Independence Day' style, or sneak in through the back door?"

What I like to do sometimes, as people may have noticed, is reel off a cast list when I think that it speaks for itself. Read the following list and try to argue that it's not one of the best blends of old hands and new talent thrown together for a sci-fi horror movie. I've already mentioned Wood, Hatosy and Brewster, but there's also Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Robert Patrick, Christopher McDonald, Jon Stewart and Daniel von Bargen. And Usher. Everyone does a great job. And Usher.

The script by Williamson and the direction by Rodriguez are both as cine-literate as you'd expect, with ever scene throwing up a wealth of references, in-jokes and foreshadowing. It's a very nicely constructed movie, one that works in terms of a teen movie and also a sci-fi horror without neglecting either. The fact that it's so subversive just adds to the appeal. I don't want to spoil any details for people who have yet to see it, but bad behaviour ends up paying dividends while fighting back against invading aliens. The soundtrack has some good tunes in the mix and the special effects are generally pretty great, mixing plenty of practical work with some solid CGI.

All in all, The Faculty is eminently rewatchable and just a fun time for fans of the subgenre.


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