Luke Owen counts down to Halloween by reviewing horror movies from the last 60 years; next up is The Faculty (1998)…
As we roll into the 90s, horror cinema morphed into a different kind of beast. The 80s was full of ‘stalk and slash’ horror movies but by the tail end of the early 90s, the fad was beginning to wear off. Movies such as Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday and Child’s Play 3 just weren’t doing it for the ‘Gen Xers’. The swing in horror style changed with Wes Craven’s 1996 genre defining Scream which was written for an audience that had grown up and out of the 80s slasher mentality with references to movies that had come before it in a ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ fashion. This style of writing would become the dominant force in mid to late 90s horror (which I will come on to when I review Halloween: H2O on Wednesday).
One such movie to come out of this new mold was the 1998 sci-fi horror The Faculty, directed by ‘one-man-does-everything’ Robert Rodriguez and written by the man who started this horror shift, Kevin Williamson. The film often feels like a 90s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (which is referenced within the dialogue) and is, to be quite honest, a really good movie.
What makes The Faculty such a great movie is its likeable cast of misfit characters. From weedy Casey (Elijah Wood), to under-achiever Zeke (Josh Hartnett) to bitchy Delilah (Jordana Brewster), The Faculty gives you a set of people you can almost relate to and genuinely care about whether they live or die. Their dialogue at times can be a bit naff (as was the staple of 90s horror) but for the most part they’re incredibly well-rounded characters with individual story arcs, character traits and distinct personalities. They may be plastic clichés, but they’re quite enjoyable ones.
The film also boasts a really good cast; along with the aforementioned Woods, Hartnett and Brewster you have Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, Usher Raymond and Jon Stewart. Aint It Cool News founder Harry Knowles also makes a small cameo role (a really good sign of when the film was made). Everyone puts in a really decent performance – including Usher who would go on to do a pretty lousy performance in the 1999 teen rom-com She’s All That. Robert Patrick is fantastic as the first to fall to the alien invasion and is the perfect antagonist for our teen heroes. Famke Janssen also puts in a fine performance as Miss Burke, who transforms from shy geeky teacher to vixen bitch with an attitude. Her relationship with Zeke may be a bit odd and illegal, but it’s actually sort of sweet.
The alien invasion storyline is also played very well and the pace of the movie is note perfect. Rodriguez uses the skills he learnt on From Dusk Till Dawn to create a horror movie that should really be placed in the pantheons of the greats of the decade. I don’t really know why The Faculty isn’t as popular as some of the other movies to come out around the same time. It’s a lot better than I Know What You Did Last Summer and Final Destination but yet it doesn’t seem to be seen as on the same level of success.
Which is a real shame, because I love The Faculty. Of all the films I’ve reviewed over the last few days, it’s not the goriest or scariest, but it’s easily one of the most entertaining. The acting is good, the characters are great and the story is really strong. You could call it an underrated classic of 90s horror.
Gore: ★ ★ / Scares: ★ ★ / Entertainment: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.