Screenwriter Kevin Williamson burst onto the scene in the mid 1990’s with a speculative screenplay he called Scary Movie. The Weinstein Company and Director Wes Craven produced the script and re-titled it Scream just before release. The rest, as they say, is history. Scream changed horror forever and made its screenwriter a rising star. Williamson followed up the success of Scream with I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2 in 1997 and the Scream franchise made film studio Dimension Films a powerhouse of horror. 1998 saw Dimension release (among others) Phantoms, Nightwatch, and Halloween: H20 before ultimately releasing Kevin Williamson’s 4th feature film. The date? Christmas Day. The film? The Faculty!
Let’s look back on the underrated horror classic on its 20th anniversary, shall we? Merry Christmas!
The Faculty Synopsis
To the students at Harrington High, the principal and her posse of teachers have always been a little odd, but lately they’ve been behaving positively alien. Controlled by otherworldly parasites, the faculty try to infect students one by one. Cheerleader Delilah, football player Stan, drug dealer Zeke and new girl Marybeth team up with some of their other classmates to fight back against the invaders.
The Faculty was directed by Robert Rodriguez – his first film back in the director’s chair since 1996’s From Dusk Till Dawn. The film opened on Christmas Day, 1998 alongside Patch Adams and Stepmom. The Faculty charted in 5th place behind those two films and 2nd week holdovers You’ve Got Mail and The Prince of Egypt with a box office take of $11.6 million (against a $15 million budget). The film would go on to gross $40 million domestically during its theatrical run.
Reviews were mixed with a Rotten Tomatoes critical and audience score both lurking in the lower to mid 50% positive range. All I can say is, what the Hell is wrong with you people??? This movie is awesome!!!
Talent For DAYS!
The first thing that stands out to me about The Faculty is the unbelievable amount of talent assembled to make this film. We’ve already talked about the iconic screenwriter (Williamson) and director (Rodriguez). Look at the cast! You’ve got Josh Hartnett, Clea Duvall, Jordana Brewster, Elijah Wood, and Usher Raymond (!) for starters. Then you’ve got Robert Patrick (fresh off of Terminator 2), Salma Hayek (From Dusk Till Dawn), Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers), Famke Janssen (X-Men), Piper Laurie (Carrie), and Christopher MacDonald (Happy Gilmore) in supporting roles. And finally, the coup de grace…Jon Stewart! Yes, THAT Jon Stewart! With a goatee!
The special FX are top notch. Why? Because they were done by Greg Nicotero and Robert Kurtzman! No doubt Rodriguez brought them on board after their stellar work on From Dusk Till Dawn. Yes, this movie is LOADED with talent from top to bottom. In fact, I can’t think of a horror film ever made with more star power in front of and behind the camera. Can you? It’s unreal.
Oscar nominated composer Marco Beltrami put together an incredible musical score for The Faculty. You probably know him from his work on Scream, Scream 2, Hellboy, Logan, and A Quiet Place. The soundtrack itself is a who’s-who of musical talent from the 1990’s. Garbage, Creed, The Offspring, Soul Asylum, Oasis, and Sheryl Crow all contributed songs. If you think back on the 1990’s fondly, the music from The Faculty really takes you back. It’s wonderful!
Invasion of the Body Snatchers themed films enjoyed a mini-renaissance in the 1990’s. There was Body Snatchers in 1993 and The Puppet Masters in 1994. The Faculty was derided as “a ripoff” by critics, but anyone with half a brain can see it’s a loving homage. Williamson’s characters discuss Invasion of the Body Snatchers at length over the course of the film. It’s all very meta. In fact there are tons of 4th wall breaking references to pop culture in the movie…a style popularized in Scream, that continues here. Effectively, I might add.
The script is taut and full of twists and turns. It keeps you guessing right up until the end. Even though the film is 20 years old, I’m not going to spoil it here. But let’s just say the scares are legit and the twists are not cheats. The “is he or isn’t he one of them” suspense captured so brilliantly in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is expertly recaptured here. I didn’t know who was who. You won’t, either. It’s great!
The Faculty – Trivia
- Kevin Williamson’s original screenplay title was The Feelers
- Filmed in Texas
- Jon Stewart’s character’s name was Edward Furlong (a casual Terminator 2 reference).
- Charisma Carpenter was the inspiration for the “Delilah” character, but she wouldn’t take the role because she felt it was too close to her “Cordelia” role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Nominated for 2 Saturn Awards, 3 Teen Choice Awards, and 2 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards
- Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, and Robert Rodriguez would join forces again in Sin City.
- Tommy Hilfiger sponsored the film and enlisted the actors for its commercials and print ad campaigns throughout 1998 in exchange for product placement.
Check one of the commercials out below!
There are no two ways about it: The Faculty is awesome. If you haven’t seen it, you need to fix that. If you have seen it, but it’s been a while, you need to watch it again. It holds up so well. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since it came out! The movie is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD on Amazon. You can also get a digital copy on VUDU and other streaming services. If you can wait a week, The Faculty is also streaming on Shudder starting January 2nd. No doubt the 20th anniversary factored in to that timing.
So what do you think? Any fans of The Faculty out there in PopHorror land? Give us your thoughts on the 20th anniversary in the comments!