The Faculty
Rating -

Horror/Sci-Fi (US); 1998; Rated R; 104 Minutes

Jordana Brewster: Delilah Proffit
Usher Raymond: Gabe
Clea DuVall: Stokely
Laura Harris: Marybeth
Piper Laurie: Mrs. Olson
Jon Stewart: Mr. Furlong
Elijah Wood: Casey Connor

Produced by Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez, Bill Scott, Bob Weinsten and Harvey Weinstein; Directed by Robert Rodriguez; Screenwritten by Kevin Williamson

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Written by DAVID KEYES

I have had it.

I have truly, truly had it.

I am so sick of teenage horror flicks that I'm sorry to call myself one. Why are we always the subject of these pictures? Why are we teens always planted into horror movies as the cause or motive for murders or supernatural elements? Ever since the recent outbreak of the "Scream" pictures, we teenagers have had to put up with an endless series of films where we are either murdered, murderers, tricked, sabotaged, neglected, tormented, brainwashed, or even subjected to twenty-year-old killers who just won't die. Those subjects, and more, have popped up in a fairly large amount of recent horror films which include, "I Know What You Did Last Summer," "Urban Legend," "Halloween: H20" and even "Disturbing Behavior." They show up every four or five months, if not more often.

I guess this observation plays as a prelude, or a hint of the nightmares to come. Enter the new film "The Faculty," which is essentially an overwrought, unentertaining, uncreative and unworthy movie. It looks like it was written by someone in a boiler factory, and then he/she decided to trash the script. Along comes someone new, and the rescue the script that they see being torched before them. Only segments of it are narrowly saved, and then they took the remainder of the story, sold it to a director, and then he made a film about it.

This is the kind movie every mother should warn her child about: it's the horror picture that scares you not with supernatural twists or special effects, but with the stupidity and lifelessness of the characters and story. A horror movie can't get much worse than this. Sometimes, it's necessary to give such movies no stars as a final rating, but that rarely happens, because most horror isn't positively inept. "The Faculty" is just one margin away from receiving such a pathetic honor, and the only thing that prevents it from falling into that basket is the fact that it has a writer and director who have both done exceptional jobs with their movies in the past.

Why would anyone want to make a movie like this, anyway? I seem to remember a time when screenwriter Kevin Williamson proclaimed that his movie, "The Faculty," would do for science fiction what "Scream" did for horror; I assume that meant his film would change the formula, style, structure, and development of the standard science fiction movie. He and Robert Rodriguez pulled out all the stops, too--numerous television ads, promotion by costume executive Tommy Hilfiger, references and cameos from the film's biggest stars, and, of course, televised trailers with the footage from the film that seemed to hint a good movie was approaching.

I never really paid attention to the trailers myself, and something tells me I didn't miss much, either. What you want to see never happens, and what you think might happen does, because the script is so obviously thrown together that Mr. Williamson forgot two important things: (1) the element of surprise, and (2) the originality he had promised us with the "Scream" pictures. The whole setup plays out in ways beyond comprehension. It's supposed to be science fiction, but it's much more of your typical horror flick in which everything seems so bankrupt of new ideas that not even the old clichés work on screen. No, this isn't that 'new science-fiction' film we've been expecting. This is a rip-off of "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" and the typical overplayed elements of horror. To even have the urge to see it is like having the urge to chew on nails as they are spinning in an electric screwdriver.

The movie takes place at (where else?) high school, where we get briefly acquainted with the student body, a group of teenagers who look as if they were leftovers at the tryouts. I have nothing against actors like Elijah Wood, or the hit R & B singer Usher, but when their characters are developed poorly through a series of incredibly weak dimensions, their screen presence cannot be taken seriously.

But now I'm getting sidetracked. Essentially, the student body discovers that the teachers, coaches, etc. in their school have become inhabited by alien life forms who plan to destroy the human race. To carry out the performances of these alien-possessed high school professors, you have a cast that includes, among others, Piper Laurie ("Carrie"), Jon Stewart, Salma Hayek and Daniel Von Bergen. Heck, the movie even has Robert Patrick (T-1000 from "Terminator 2") show up as one of the members of the faculty--he plays the mysterious but obvious football coach. There's always something in the look of his eyes that gives away any dark side he holds behind him. In Schwarzenegger's flick, the first time you saw him, you knew he was trouble. When those eyebrows lower in "The Faculty," you know what's up his sleeve, as well as the rest of the teaching staff.

Maybe that's the big problem. Maybe it's just too predictable and too foreseen to handle. None of us like to see movies where we can guess exactly what happens. Being a teenage horror flick like all the others, maybe that's why, "The Faculty" is more detestable than it needs to be. If you had avoided any background history of the film's production, I'd bet you wouldn't even realize that it was written by the same guy who wrote "Scream."

Kevin Williamson is a fascinating writer, whose new image on the horror genre has taken it back to stardom. Only in the past few years had the word 'horror' been neglected from critical praise and commercial success. Thanks to Williamson's genius, "Scream" renewed our hope and belief that horror movies can be original and fun again, as they were over twenty years ago.

It's just hard to believe that this is the same guy who wrote "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "The Faculty." Now that I look at the proof, perhaps there's two Kevin Williamsons floating around in Hollywood. One of them knows that horror movies need a severe facelift. The other one thinks that some extra makeup and minor cosmetic surgery will be enough to keep it standing awhile longer.

© 1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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