When in doubt, assume it’s aliens


Solil Devyn Borthwick

I went into “The Faculty” about as blind as I could— I knew it had something to do with teachers and aliens, but that was about it. As a result, there was a moment which should not have come as a surprise to me, but it absolutely did.
“No,” I said, aghast.
“No,” my girlfriend repeated.
“They did not,” I declared, desperately trying to alter reality with my words.
“My love,” she consoled me, “I think they did.”
“That poor boy!” I cried. “Why did they drag Elijah Wood into this?”
And so started one of the least sensical movies that I have ever seen.
The first draft of “the Faculty” was written in 1990 by David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel, but it was the success of “Scream” in 1996 which prompted Miramax to rush the movie through production for a 1998 release.
Director Robert Rodriguez, also responsible for the “Spy Kids” franchise and “Sharkboy and Lava Girl,” both of which I should probably review, handled this bowl of sci-fi soup about as well as he could.
The camerawork is consistently just bad enough to notice, with wobbling stills and enough lurch in a few moving shots to give a sea-captain motion sickness.
The movie dawdles too long on setup and rushes its ending, and the Hollywood requirement that every character be locked into a heterosexual relationship before the credits roll produced final pairings which, by my guess, will not outlast graduation for long.
“The Faculty” was a critical flop, though it did gross about $40 million in the USA off a budget of $15 million. Almost all its favorable reviews came from fans of the B-Movie genre, praising its willingness to embrace tropes and run with clichés.
More serious cinema enthusiasts lambasted its lack of originality. Most of the plot and premise is cut up from scraps of other sci-fi stories, loosely strung together by an admirably overqualified cast.
Elijah Wood enters the film as Casey Connor perfectly — a panning shot follows him off the school bus and into an elbow, thrust into the frame and Casey’s nose in spectacular fashion.
“Sorry,” he mumbles, wiping blood from his nose. “My fault.”
Wood’s performance was far and away my favorite in the film — he sells Casey’s role as a punching bag with meek, stammering speeches that almost always get him ridiculed.
The rest of the main cast is introduced in similarly corny fashion — goth girl Stokely (Clea DuVall) bids Casey “Crash and burn,” while he recoils from the blow, then promptly collides with Stan (Shawn Hatosy), Herrington High’s star quarterback who is beginning to think there may be more to life than balls.
There’s also Laura Harris as Marybeth Louise Hutchinson from Atlanta. She’s new here. Josh Hartnett plays Zeke, a reluctantly intelligent super-senior who uses his smarts to sell homemade drugs to high schoolers.
Last in the half-dozen leading teens is Delilah Profitt (Jordana Brewster), editor-in-chief of the school’s paper, Stan’s abusive girlfriend, and all-around bitch. Her low screen time and poorly written character don’t give Brewster much to work with, but she performs as respectably as the rest of the main cast.
Unfortunately, as talented as some of these performers are, there’s only so much they can do to rescue this hodge-podge mess of high school drama and alien invasion.
Nearly every time the six-student anti-alien agency meets an obstacle, they assume their solutions based on the very same pieces of media that “the Faculty,” has appropriated and assimilated as a part of itself.
In this way, the movie parallels its extraterrestrial baddies, who are intent on using brain-controlling parasites to seize hold of Herrington, Ohio because… reasons.
There are a few ideas thrown around as to why specifically Ohio, but there’s never a really solid answer, because again, the characters just assume everything and roll with it.
The soundtrack actually managed to catch my attention, primarily for a cover of “Another Brick in the Wall” by Class of ‘99 which plays over an excessively violent, alien-infested football game.
And yes, the film does get that weird. Absurdity carries “the Faculty” on every level. From the very premise down to individual lines of dialogue, most of this movie makes no goddamn sense.
However, as more of the teachers at Herrington high begin to exhibit odd behavior, our merry band of misfits sets out to solve the problem, but not before making sure to get absolutely blitzed.
I won’t tell you why, but I will tell you that during this alien invasion, our squad of scholars makes the active decision to cook and consume vast amounts of Zeke’s homebrew nasal powder — and it forwards the plot.
This movie features high school students snorting garage-manufactured narcotics out of ballpoint pens as a reasonable means of defeating the unnoticed wave of space invaders that have overrun their hometown.
If you’re so sober that somehow that doesn’t appeal to you, then in the words of Casey Connor — “Sniff this.”