In the latest Kevin Williamson script to hit theaters (this time directed by Robert Rodriguez), the old small-town alien- invasion gambit gets the Scream treatment, with a little teen alienation (alien nation, get it?) thrown in for good measure. Reassuringly derivative of everything from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to The Puppetmasters to The Stepford Wives (even Men in Black gets both a dialogue name check and a plot-point nod), The Faculty riffs on the “parents and teachers just don’t understand” thing as a question of species, introducing us to a demographic cross section of Anywhere High School, America, infecting their authority figures with extra terrestrial earwigs and asking the kids to, like, save the world.
On the side of individualized humanity and good, there’s the Cheerleader (Jordana Brewster), the Jock (Shawn Hatosy), the Nerd (Elijah Wood), and the cig-smoking Cool Guy (Josh Hartnett). Arrayed against them is the efficiently evil gang from the teacher’s lounge, led by the diabolical alien infected Bitch Principal (Bebe Neurwirth) and Football Coach (Robert Patrick). Since the codes of science fiction are
different from horror’s cant, the patented Williamson method doesn’t make a perfect fit with the material; Faculty‘s fun, but less fun than it could be. Williamson and Rodriguez don’t ruminate on impaled,
violent death (i.e., sex) with much gusto, choosing instead to go a half-baked ideological route: the alien’s perfectly
regimented communal order squares off against what one kid identifies most succinctly as the freedom to “be a D
student.” Although The Faculty provides effective action set pieces, quite a few scary sneak-up scenes, and some good
wiser-than-their-years repartee, it’s only subversive touch is its hep-cat attitude toward drugs: the test to determine if someone’s been taken over by aliens involving snorting home-brewed (albeit caffeine-based) speed. In the end, Faculty offers none of the unsettling half-closures or frame-shattering outburst
of FX and violence that mark the best of its chosen genre, but there is something cool about a mainstream, teen multiplex outing that identifies chemically altering consciousness as a fundamental part of being human.