Have you ever wanted to see Jon Stewart get stabbed in the eye with a hypodermic needle?
If you answered yes, then 1998’s The Faculty might be the film for you!
The Faculty takes a look at what happens when a new alien species happens to turn up outside of a painfully normal high school in Ohio. By painfully normal, I mean that Herrington High School is just as messed up as you would expect a suburban high school to be. The teachers are all underpaid and resentful of their principal (Bebe Neuwrith). Prof. Furlong (Jon Stewart) is the overqualified science teacher who will perhaps be a little too excited about the chance to examine a new alien species. Coach Willis (Robert Patrick) is the emotionally shut off coach of the school’s losing football team. Mrs. Olson (Piper Laurie) is the drama teacher who struggles to promote creativity in a school that’s more interested in blind conformity. Miss Burke (Famke Janssen) is the teacher who cares too much. And, finally, there’s Nurse Harper (Salma Hayek), who looks a lot like Salma Hayek.
And, as typical as the teachers may be, the students are even more so. We get to know a few and they all neatly fit into the expected stereotypes. Casey (Elijah Wood) is the nerdy outcast who is regularly picked on by … well, by everyone. Deliliah (Jordana Brewster) is the status-obsessed head cheerleader who has just broken up with her boyfriend, Stan (Shawn Hatosy), because he quit the football team. Zeke (Josh Hartnett) is the school rebel, the kid who is repeating his senior year and who sells synthetic drugs out of the trunk of his car. Stokes (Clea DuVall) is an intentional outcast who pretends to be a lesbian and has a crush on Stan. And finally, there’s Marybeth (Laura Harris), a new transfer student who speaks with a Southern accent.
These students would seem to have nothing in common but they’re going to have to work together because the entire faculty of Herrington High has been taken over by aliens! Fortunately, the aliens are vulnerable to Zeke’s drugs, which is something that is learned after Jon Stewart takes a hypodermic to the eye…
When one looks over the top Texas filmmakers (director like Terrence Malick, Richard Linklater, Mike Judge, and David Gorden Green), Robert Rodriguez often comes across as being both the most likable and the least interesting. Like his frequent collaborator Quentin Tarantino, Rodriguez fills his movies with references and homages to other films but, unlike Tarantino, there rarely seems to be much going on behind all of those references. However, Rodriguez’s referential style works well in The Faculty because, along with acting as an homage to both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Faculty also manages to tap into a universal truth.
Teachers are weird!
Or, at least, they seem weird when you’re a student. Now that I’m out of high school, I can look back and see that my teachers were actually pretty normal. They were people who did their jobs and, as much as I like to think that I was everyone’s all-time favorite, I’m sure that there have been other brilliant, asthmatic, redheaded, aspiring ballerinas who have sat in their class. My teachers spent a lot of time talking about things that I may not have been interested in but that wasn’t because they were obsessed with talking to me about algebra or chemistry or anything like that. They were just doing their job, just like everyone else does.
But, seriously, when you’re a student, it’s easy to believe that your teachers have been possessed by an alien life form.
Probably the best thing about The Faculty is the fact that the aliens cause the teachers to act in ways that are the exact opposite of their usual personalities. For most of the teachers, this means that they turn into homicidal lunatics. But, in the case of Coach Willis, this actually leads to him not only becoming a happy, well-adjusted human being but it also turns him into a good coach. Suddenly, Willis is getting emotional about the games, his team loves him, and he even gets a win!
Go Coach Willis!
As for the film itself, it’s not bad at all.
Lisa’s rating: 7 out of 10.