Review of The Faculty (1998)

Dir. by: Robert Roderiguez
Starring: Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnet, Shawn Hatosy


I will admit that The Faculty has been one of my guilty pleasures since I first saw it in the early 2000s. Despite its obvious flaws, I remain a fan. I mean, it’s a ’90s teen movie – a genre favorite of mine – that incorporates horror. And Jon Stewart is in it! How could it be better?

What’s it about?
An unsuspecting, small-town high school in Ohio is taken over by an alien invasion. The movie opens with the grizzly murder of the school principal by the football coach and the drama teacher. We’re then introduced to the typical ’90s teen archetypes: Casey, the nerd (Wood); Stokely, the alt chick (DuVall); Stan, the football player (Hatosy); Delilah, the head cheerleader overachiever (Brewster); Marybeth, the virgin (Harris); and Zeke, the town’s only bad boy (Hartnett). These students are thrown together once they realize that something strange is happening with the Faculty of the school. Throw in famous cameos (Jon Stewart as the science professor; Selma Hayek as the nurse; Usher as another prominent member of the popular crowd) and you’ve got yourself a ’90s teen horror movie.

What did I think?
All guilty pleasures aside, this movie has an interesting premise. While movies like Alien had already been out for almost two decades, The Faculty took the common idea of an alien invasion and put it into a teen movie. Of course, that was the theme of the late ’90s, wasn’t it? While the ’80s had slasher films and icons like Freddy and Jason, the ’90s had horror movies based around high school and icons like Ghostface.

The Faculty certainly isn’t the best of these movies – films like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer take the cake on that one – however, it has its charm. You see teen-aged characters band together to defy their cliques and work for the greater good. You see amazing actors really showing you that they can do anything, even B movies. You see twists and turns that, while predictable, make the story interesting.

The acting is well done, for the most part. Josh Hartnett and Elijah wood, who both still had their biggest years ahead of them, bring their characters to life. Clea DuVall plays the same character she plays in nearly every other ’90s movie – the alt chick with a chip on her shoulder – and she does it well (sometimes there’s a reason for typecasting). Marybeth is definitely done justice by Laura Harris, who has really mastered the sweet southern new girl role.

The popular kids, however, really fell short. Shawn Hatosy and Jordana Brewster were not believable in their performances. They didn’t make me dislike them, like I should have. Instead, I felt indifferent. I didn’t believe Stan’s dilemma and I couldn’t understand why Casey was so in love with Delilah, who was obviously so fake.

Do I recommend it?
Do you like formulaic B movies from the late 1990s? If yes, then I definitely recommend it. This movie is a guilty pleasure of mine because of nostalgia and nostalgia alone. If I had never seen it before and turned it on today, it would be for the sole purpose of laughing.

The Faculty is currently streaming on Netflix.


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