‘The Faculty’ – Body snatchers go to high school on Paramount+

Something is wrong with the teachers in The Faculty (1998), a teen horror film that plays like The Breakfast Club edition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

There’s no mystery to the sudden change, as the first teachers (a sorry bunch of burned out professionals barely making the grade themselves) are turned by the alien invader before we even get to the opening credits. And it’s not much longer before the kids start to notice the abrupt personality changes in the school staff.

The teen heroes are, naturally, a bunch of students who would as soon drop a biting insult to one another than say hello. Among the classic types are: perpetual nerd Casey (Elijah Wood), status conscious head cheerleader and newspaper editor Delilah (Jordana Brewster), her boyfriend Stan (Shawn Hatosy), the misunderstood jock who is secretly a nice guy, smart-ass drug dealer and campus bad boy Zeke (Josh Hartnett), and loner intellectual gal Stokely (Clea DuVall), and new girl Marybeth (Laura Harris), a Southern transfer student with a honey-smothered drawl. When the students start getting called in to the office one by one, and exit with the same sort of slow walking, glowering intensity as the faculty, our misfit heroes have no choice but to band together. It’s the six of them against the whole damn town.

It’s written by Scream screenwriter and Dawson’s Creek creator Kevin Williamson and directed by Robert Rodriguez and while much of The Faculty is far-fetched and silly (even for a science fiction invasion movie with teen rebel heroes), that doesn’t seem to be problem for this modern drive-in genre picture. They bring a fun loving, self-aware cleverness to both the science-fiction/horror conventions and the teen movie clichés. And they get a game cast to play the faculty, among them Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Christopher McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, and Jon Stewart.

Rodriguez knows that this is really no more than a monster movie with Clearasil generation heroes and that’s fine for a filmmaker so in love with pulp cinema. He and Williamson have crafted the perfect throw-away teen horror film: unpretentious, giddily junky, stylistically restrained, and lots of fun, like a carnival ride.

Rated R

Streams for a limited time on Paramount+

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
The Faculty [Blu-ray]
The Faculty [DVD]
The Faculty / Phantoms: Double Feature [DVD]

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.