Aliens Attack! The Faculty Edition

With every movie I see in the theaters being a variation on Aliens Attack! (The Avengers, Battleship, Men in Black III, and Prometheus being the last four movies I’ve seen), I thought I would check out the Netflix equivalents. I will say that I hope the rest of the summer movies can do without aliens (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises).

The Faculty is currently available on instant Netflix.

One-Line Review: Aliens attack The Breakfast Club (with fun results).

The Faculty (1998) – Rated R

“Many teens think their teachers hail from another planet — but what if it’s true? Herrington High students notice that faculty members aren’t quite themselves, and discover an alien infection they might not be able to stop.”

Robert Rodriguez is a vastly fun director. He is always very kinetic and edits his own films. There is no such thing as a slow-paced Rodriguez film. He knows how to make the most out of a shoestring budget and has a good eye for gore effects.

After a brief scene to establish that The Faculty is a horror movie, Rodriguez introduces us to our jock Stan (Shawn Hatosy – physically a bit miscast), nerd Casey (Elijah Wood), popular girl Delilah (Jordana Brewster), head case Stokely (Clea Duvall), punk Zeke (Josh Hartnett) and new girl Marybeth (Laura Harris). If those archetypes seem familiar, the first five are lifted from The Breakfast Club.

Rodriguez’ trades in on Robert Patrick’s former role as the T-1000. His inherent oddness makes him seem alien and sinister and he does a good role of playing that up. Rodriguez regular Salma Hayek has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role as the school nurse. Famke Janssen has a lot of fun as a wallflower teacher but you can see that she’s just a removal of glasses and hair flip away from being the Hollywood hottie.

Rodriguez gets fun (not good but fun) performances from everyone including Bebe Neuwirth and Piper Laurie as other faculty members.

While Rodriguez normally writes, edits, and directs, here he wisely turns the writing chores over to Kevin Williamson. Rodriguez writes efficiently but Williamson really knows how to write young people. He throws in the usual pop culture references including a hilarious one about Invasion of the Body Snatchers ripping off Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters (which it did). The Faculty is essentially the same story.

Note to wife: there is a wonderful “you own nothing” scene midway through the movie.

As usual for this scenario, the first two acts are creepy but the script and direction are too fun to get a real feeling of paranoia. The third act turns into more of a monster movie (obvious from the previews). As usual for Rodriguez, the action is well-handled and several of the scenes are memorable (and a bit wince-inducing).

I know I have used the word ‘fun’ too often but that is definitely the theme here. The Faculty is a fun gory horror movie.

People Watch: Look for Daily Show pundit Jon Stewart in a brief role as a science teacher.