Nonstop action, horror and inside humor mark director Robert Rodriguez's latest release.
Thursday, January 7, 1999
Editor''s Note: You might have missed--or dismissed-- The Faculty during the holiday rush. But, especially if you''re a sci-fi/horror fan, you might want to catch up on this Christmas release.
Co-written by Scream scribe Kevin Williamson and George Huang >(Swimming With Sharks), The Faculty is pure Robert Rodriguez: jam-packed with action, suspense, humor, horror and plenty of cinematic homages. While it may suffer a bit from excess character clutter (nearly 10 major characters throughout), it''s nonetheless a slam-bang, sci-fi actioner, relentlessly paced and edited, with a pounding soundtrack and some ingenious aliens, courtesy of Berni Wrightson and KNB Effects.
Elijah Wood plays Casey, the introverted class misfit at Ohio''s Herrington High School. When he chances upon a bizarre, slug-like life-form while shooting pictures on the football field one day, Casey unwittingly uncovers a plot by aliens to infect the school''s faculty and, eventually, the whole planet. This sly spin on the high school caste system (think The Breakfast Club by way of Invasion of the Body Snatchers) is pure Williamson; the script is rife with knowing dialogue and genre in-jokes, and it''s a hoot to play "spot the allusion."
John Carpenter''s The Thing is hilariously echoed in a scene in which Casey and his classmates Zeke (Josh Hartnett), Stokely (Clea DuVall), Mary Beth (Laura Harris) and others must prove their humanity by snorting vials of diuretic No-Doz, while lesser genre highlights such as Night of the Kreeps are given their due as well. Rodriguez''s film takes off like a rocket and never lets up from the get-go.
The deadly faculty itself--football coach Willis (Robert Patrick), Principal Drake (Bebe Neuwirth), English teacher Miss Burke (Famke Janssen), and Piper Laurie''s Miss Olsen--are a wonderfully creepy crew, morphing into slimy, Lovecraftian horrors and sprouting multi-tendrilled shadows at every turn.
If anything, Rodriguez packs too much of a good thing into an already crowded film. Just as one hair-raising horror dies down, two more take its place. It''s a rush, yes, but sometimes I caught myself wishing for a breather of sorts. Still, no one around these days edits with such sublime accuracy as Rodriguez. A master of the smash-cut, The Faculty is overflowing with the director''s "I''ll try anything once" spirit, and that''s what makes the film such witty, freaky fun.
Besides, any film that can make the high school experience even worse than I remember it is aces in my book.