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John’s Horror Corner: The Faculty (1998), tons of fun and cliques of before-they-were-famous actors

August 23, 2013

MY CALL:  Monstrous aliens Body Snatch the faculty of a small Ohio high school in this clique-y high school throwback filled with before-they-were-famous A-listers.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  Here is a half dozen more movies pitting clique-y 18-year olds against the forces of evil in various forms… Disturbing Behavior (1998), Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999), Urban Legend (1998), The Craft (1996), Idle Hands (1999), Class of ’99 (1990).

Director Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk til Dawn, Planet Terror) delivers a fun horror experience in this clique-y high school throwback.  As if pulled from the Breakfast Club‘s Saturday detention, we find a motley crew of completely dissimilar backgrounds and values who are forced to work together against their common enemy, forces of evil: their teachers!

The players include the shallow it-girl Delilah (Scream Queen Jordana Brewster; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Fast Five), the drug-peddling closet intellectual Zeke (Josh Hartnett; 30 Days of Night, Sin City), the bullied quiet kid Casey (Elijah Wood; Maniac), the maybe-lesbian antisocialite Stokely (Clea Duval; Identity, American Horror Story), the football team captain Stan (Shawn Hatosy; John Q, The Postman) and the southern belle do-gooder Mary Beth (Laura Harris; Dead Like Me, Dead Zone).  Some fellow student cameos include sesident stoner (Danny Masterson) and the token black guy (Usher).

That’s one Hell of a cast of before-they-were-huge actors!  When I recently saw this movie again, I found the cast to be as enjoyable as “the movie.”  It’s fun seeing a bunch of star power in a movie you saw years ago without knowing they’d one day be a big deal (or, at least, slightly more famous).  But we’ve only looked at half the cast.

Facing off against the students, we have the faculty, including the super mousy English teacher (Famke Janssen; Hemlock Grove, Deep Rising, The House on Haunted Hill), football coach and gym class teacher (Robert Patrick; Terminator 2: Judgment Day), biology teacher Dr. Furlong (Jonathan Stewart), Nurse Harper (Salma Hayek; From Dusk til Dawn, Dogma), Principal Drake (Bebe Neuwirth) and some other teacher who played a famous role (Daniel von Bargen; The Silence of the Lambs, Thinner).

After being taken over by alien monsters in this Body Snatchers-Puppet Masters sampler, this high school faculty begins to behave much as the cold, transient high school educators we find today biding their time until moving on to what they think will be more glamorous careers.  Blatant, weird stares, stolid faces and socially awkward over-explanations of simple concepts clarify to the audience who has or hasn’t yet been claimed by the alien lifeforms–as if we needed our hands held to understand this.  But, then again…this movie was marketed to high schoolers around the “no child left behind” days.  Anyway, this hardly begins to explain the weird behavior of the faculty.

See what I mean?  This stuff isn’t normal….rain-worming (whatever that is)…staring at your student’s bedroom window from the street in the middle of the night…

Mr. Furlong and Casey find some alien, aquatic larva which grows rapidly in water and self clones in seconds.  You’ve gotta’ appreciate all of the movie-referencing in the dialogue (e.g., Aliens, The Puppet Masters, Men in Black, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), when our protagonists emulate the “who’s one of them” test from The Thing and when a teacher’s severed head “crawls” away–again, we’d like to thank The Thing for that idea.

The violence and blood are “fun.”  It doesn’t match up to the comically overdone slapstick of Drag Me to Hell, Tucker and Dale vs Evil or Evil Dead.  But it’s pretty slimy and gross nonetheless.  There’s stop-motion, CGI and classic make-up…even rubber monster suits (but mostly CGI).

It’s all a good time, but the effects run at a slow pace until the end.  In the meantime this feels a lot like a high school movie with a series of eerie teacher scenes mixed in.  But the last 30 minutes–featuring eye stabbings, aural insemination, tentacle attacks and crawling severed appendages–are well worth the wait if for no other reason than competent and fun special effects surrounding a nostalgic cast including many of today’s A-listers.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2013 7:01 am

    Yes! Mini cult classic…..

    • johnleavengood permalink
      August 23, 2013 7:13 am

      I was actually in high school when this came out. Loved it then, still love it now.

  2. August 23, 2013 10:15 am

    I love “Mini cult classic.” I’ve never heard that term. I’m gonna steal it. Thanks thisisnotbangkok. Also, thanks for following!

  3. August 23, 2013 1:00 pm

    I love this movie and I have defended it for years against people who have talked badly about it.

    • johnleavengood permalink
      August 23, 2013 1:04 pm

      That’s right, R2 DD 2! Join the resistance! I’m tired of snobby critics bashing fun horror efforts basically for being just that–movies that are made to be fun and entertaining and not “good.”

  4. John Leavengood permalink
    October 4, 2018 7:25 am

    Podcast discussion from The Faculty of Horror:
    http://www.facultyofhorror.com/2018/09/episode-65-smells-like-teen-spirit-the-faculty-1998/

Trackbacks

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  4. John’s Horror Corner: Cooties (2015), an excellently flesh-eating horror comedy that is as fresh as the flesh it infects. | Movies, Films & Flix
  5. John’s Horror Corner: Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor (1990), a gory callback to The Thing (1982) complete with mutant alien parasites and gooey transformations. | Movies, Films & Flix
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  7. John’s Horror Corner: Fire in the Sky (1993), mastering the fascinating terror of alien abduction. | Movies, Films & Flix
  8. John’s Horror Corner: Virus (1999), The Thing (1982) meets The Terminator (1984) in this gory, evil cyborg flick loaded with insectoid robot minions. | Movies, Films & Flix

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