THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
The Faculty (1998)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
“The Faculty isn’t Scream by any means, but it’s a damn entertaining movie with effective pacing and acting despite an obvious plot, stock genre characters, and horrendously dated effects.”
Ah, Hollywood horror. Some days you produce high quality, Oscar worthy material and other days you produce…stuff. Usually, that stuff is pretty stinky…shitty, to be more exact. Thick, tar-like stuff. Occasionally, however, that stuff rises above the waste and does its job to entertain the masses. Notice I said the masses, not the hardcore horror fans. No, no. Even the average Joblo needs his kicks too (not our Joblo, but maybe…).
In the case of The Faculty, it’s important to remember it’s a Hollywood flick more than it’s a horror flick. I remember seeing it in theaters wayyyy back in the day and had wanted to see it because of Robert Rodriguez, who was fresh off From Dusk Till Dawn, which impressed the hell out of a young me. Looking back though, The Faculty stands out as a bit of an oddity on the Rodriguez resume as it lacks the feel, sound, and look of a Rodriguez picture, yet it still delivered everything I wanted. Sure, it was made in Austin and even features his sister in a cameo, but The Faculty came during the genre teen revitalization of the 1990’s led by Scream.
The Faculty isn’t Scream by any means, but it’s a damn entertaining movie with effective pacing and acting despite an obvious plot, stock genre characters, and horrendously dated effects. (Bad effects have almost always undone Rodriguez movies, especially anything heavy CGI…and this was early in that game.) And considering this is a rated R horror movie, the gore plays pretty light, especially in comparison with Rodriguez’s other films, but I’ll irresponsibly say this was his first true mainstream movie…so dude had to play ball (I assume) with producer demands. Notice he never did anything this commercial again.
When I look back at a movie like this, unseen for more than a decade, sometimes I’ll watch it as it serves a dual purpose. 1) For entertainment (duh). 2) For a flashback. In the case of The Faculty, it’s both as not only does the film have a hellva an entertaining cast, but they’re all really good in it and appeared to have enjoyed the thing: Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Robert Patrick, Jon Stewart, Salma Hayek, Clea DuVall, Jordana Brewster, Famke Janssen, Usher, Christopher McDonald, and even Harry Knowles from Ain’t It Cool. That’s a damn good list and it’s kinda cool how many of this cast he has reused over the years in various movies and varying roles (who would have thought Wood would play a silent-fingernail-slasher a few years later?).
Considering the movie is written by Kevin Williamson, the brain behind Scream, it’s shouldn’t be much of a surprise that he successfully updated Invasion of the Body Snatchers…in case there hasn’t been enough versions of it. At least, however, the world had never had a teen version, an essential tool for recycling grand ideas so new generations can consume it (considering most aren’t aware of things before 2005, which is sad but mostly true). Think what Disturbia did for Rear Window…ok, it did nothing.
Lastly, to complete my late 90’s flashback, The Faculty came at a time when the movie soundtrack was still big business with The Offspring, Sheryl Crow, Soul Asylum, Garbage, Oasis, and freaking Creed. However, it’s the Class of ’99, which featured Tom Morello, Steve Perkins, and the late Layne Staley, that always stuck in my head. I could be wrong, but it’s one of the last, if not the last, song the late singer recorded. It’s the perfect song and the perfect singer to watch Jon Steward get stabbed in the eye to.