The Faculty - B
Viewed Dec 31, 1998 at Evergreen Parkway 13 in Hillsboro, OR

The new opus carrying the imprint of Scream mastermind Kevin Williamson is certainly a better film than it has any right to be. The premise (alien parasites take over human hosts) has been done before far too often, and about the only new spin that The Faculty delivers on it is setting it against the general angst-fest that is high school life. (At least in films, at any rate. The fantasy/SF tropes as metaphors for teen anguish terrain has been extensively worked by network TV's best show, Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.) And the self-referential treatment of genre cliches that was the most enjoyable aspect of Scream is beginning to get tired; Williamson's acknowlegment of them doesn't begin to excuse his wholesale deployment of those cliches -- here, it seems like a cover-up for lazy writing.

So why the heck am I recommending a cliched and derivative sci-fi gorefest, anyway? The generally fine performances from both the cast of five unknowns and one familiar face (Elijah Wood) who play the cotiere of alien butt-kickers and the more familiar adults who play the suborned faculty certainly help. (Especially well cast is T-1000 Robert Patrick as the type A personality football coach.) All of them play the characters with just enough of a wink that the film doesn't die from a case of taking itself too seriously, but enough conviction that it doesn't cross the line to self-parody. Robert Rodriguez also does a fine directing job, giving the proceedings enough zip that the script's Titanic-sized plot holes don't register until after the end credits. But what puts The Faculty on my must-see list is the year's most cheekily subversive plot point - in order to constantly prove to each other that their bodies are unsnatched, our teenage misfits use a homebrewed hallucinogen from the school's resident amateur "chemist" as the litmus test. Said drug is also the only effective weapon against the otherwise indestructible alien horde. After an era of "Just Say No" and D.A.R.E. platitudes, having something like this pop up in a mainstream Hollywood flick aimed at teenagers has to count as ballsy.