Monday, September 3, 2012

Netflix Showcase: The Faculty

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, we take a look back on an age of cinema that has since passed us by. A day when people knew who Neve Campbell was, and still knew who Jennifer Lovett Hewitt is. Friends, let's talk about a flick from '98 called The Faculty.

Before we dive in, let me explain to you a few keys pieces of trivia I find worth mentioning. First of all, this piece is directed by Robert Rodriguez. If you don't know who he is, he directed such films as Spy Kids, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Planet Terror, Machete, and the completely stupid-badass From Dusk 'Til Dawn. I've heard he got contractually roped into directing this thing, but who cares. His presence only improves what could have been much, much worse.

The other thing, is that this film was written by Kevin Williamson. If you don't know who he is, allow me to quickly explain. You know how there was a big surge of slasher-oriented horror flicks back in the late nineties, beginning with Scream? This is the guy who wrote that. He also wrote pretty much every other horror movie that came out for the rest of the decade, because this is Hollywood, and if it worked once, keep doing it until it doesn't work anymore. So, the man gave us Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Teaching Misses Tingle, Halloween H20, and blah-blah-blah. It's worth mentioning he created Dawson's Creek, and I gotta say, it kind of shows. All of his movies do have that decidedly Dawson-like vibe, with the teen heartthrobs, and the scary-but-not-too-violent tone of his horror style. The guy basically makes date night horror flicks, because kids don't wanna make out to something too gritty and gory, that's hardly arousing unless you have deep, dark issues.

Another odd thing about his movies, is that most of them fallow the same poster design. It's all the kids in the cast, starring at you in the dark. The weird thing is, in every one of the movies, some generally inconsequential character makes their way onto the poster, booting some other more deserving character because they were played by a name actor, and hey if people find out that person is in it, they'll totally go see it without even giving a fuck about what it's about. Here take a look. I even circled the out of place characters, because I have no life.

Alright, enough fooling around, let's go balls deep in this thing.

The whole thing starts off on a football field, where we're treated to the end of a practice that apparently didn't go well, because the coach is seriously FLIPPING HIS SHIT. I mean, he's like losing it. It's all, "That's how you fucking sissies play, GOD DAMMIT!", and "I'm gonna beat the shit out of every one of you little pussies, GOD DAMMIT!" If you ever saw Not Another Teen Movie and you remember the coach in that one, this was the character he was a parody of. The fucked up thing is, they weren't even cranking him up all that much more than the level he was at. When the practice breaks, he keeps screaming god dammit, and then goes and seriously flips over a god damned bench, god dammit. Who let this lunatic on school grounds, for real? Anyway, his psycho-tantrum is interrupted when a POV shot sneaks up on him.

Later that night, the rest of THE FACULTY (see what a did there?) sit around discussing school stuff. It's all babble about budget cuts, and how football never gets budget cuts, and nobody cares anyway. When they go to leave, Ms. Principle realizes she left her keys or something inside and goes back, because this is a horror movie GOD DAMMIT. Speaking of God dammit, god dammit, Coach God-Dammit himself shows up and a thrilling chase scene ensues. Did I say thrilling? I meant way too long, and with a forgone conclusion, because this is about The Faculty becoming aliens, so we know she's not exactly destine to be the hero here. Also, Kevin Williamson loves to open movies by introducing us to some character who will die within the first five minutes, and then follow it up by show us the title card, which is exactly what he does here. But it's different this time! Instead of slashers, it's aliens and stuff!

Cut to Josh Hartnett driving worse than any fucking drunk driver ever. Really, if a kid drove like that on school grounds, he would be fucking suspended, but this is Movie Land, so it's totally fine I guess. What follows is a role call of all the main characters. Let's meet them, shall we?

- There's Casey, whom we meet first. He's played by Elijah Wood, and apparently abused as shit. Seriously, some guy just decks the kid the second he walks on screen. Then a group of bullies actually pick him up, and battering-ram his fucking balls into a flag pole. Like, really? Fucking REALLY? How would that not shatter his testicles like eggs? Say goodbye to any possible future children. Also, how the hell are these kids not suspended for that shit? This is the worst school ever.

- Then we've got Stokley. You can tell she's a tough, hard-as-nails broad because she wears all black and goes by her last name, like Spinelli from Recess. Just kidding. She's actually just a whinny teenager who does it to avoid being close to people, or some other such nonsense.

- Stan is the tortured jock. He's sad because he's adored by the whole school and gets a full scholarship to college in spite of being a dumbass. Poor kid, that's tough.

- His girlfriend is Delilah. She's the vapid princess archetype, and you can tell because she's introduced standing around, talking about fashion with some other girls. Jeez, what a bitch. That's totally not what other teenage girls do.

- Oh, but she's not at all like Marybeth. She's a totally naive, sweet country girl, who was just transferred here out of the blue, and is totally not the source of a big twist in the third act, in case you were wondering. To help convince us of this, Marybeth tells a girl that she likes her nose ring, because it "brings out the color of her eyes". That's totally something a normal person would say.

- Then there's Zeke. He's the rebellious, yet brilliant delinquent. When he's not driving his car like a fucking lunatic, he's selling fake I.D.'s to Hyde from That 70's Show. He also offers Hyde some fucked up drug of his own creation, dubbed "gak" or "gat", or something. I did a lot of stupid shit in high school, but one thing I would never do is buy original blend drugs off of a seventeen-year-old, which he sells to you in empty pens.

- After we're done getting to know our rag-tag group of Breakfast Club infringements, we get to meet some  of the other teachers. I only mention this because Harry Knowles is there, and I have no fucking clue why.

Anyway, the day proceeds mostly as normal. At lunch, Marybeth and Stokley strike up a small friendship, and during the conversation, Marybeth mentions feeling "pretty alien sometimes", in relation to how much of an outsider Stokley is, but mostly because she really, seriously, totally isn't going to turn out to be an alien. Elijah Wood meanwhile eats alone on the football field, crying and rubbing his balls, when he finds what looks like a cat turd on the field. Just then, Coach God-Dammit shows up, and proceeds to do his best job at acting like a total freak, before shooing Elijah away, because it would be totally pointless to just convert the kid now, while they're alone. Sound judgement call.

Elijah brings the cat turd to Professor John Stewart, because he's a science teacher, and that's pretty much the same thing as a scientist, right? John Stewart deduces that the turd is in fact a living thing, or rather was. It appears dead, until someone spills water on it, causing the little bugger to jump. So, John Stewart decides to just drop the thing in a fish tank, assuming that will revive it due to science. It works, and the thing replicates, creating a second cat turd monster, just like a gremlin. Aware that he has no fucking clue what these things are or what they can do, John Stewart decides he wants to pet one of the lil' fellas. He gets bit like an asshole. Science!

Stan tells Coach God-Dammit that he's quitting the football team, which Coat God-Dammit is totally cool with. He goes on to talk about the "HUMAN condition", and how he's totally a "HUMAN being", and that he doesn't want to "ALIENate" Stan, because he knows what it's like to feel "ALIEN sometimes". Then he holds up a sign which reads I AM SO TOTALLY HUMAN AND NOT AN ALIEN, before he smiles and winks at the camera.

After that, Stan goes off to take a shower. While he's standing there, relaxing away the tremendous stress of getting laid as often as he wants and going to college for free, a VISITOR joins him (I can make these clever little waves at the audience, too). Turns out it's an old lady, who was the computer teacher or something like that. She's about to start the most God awful porn movie ever, but instead decides to sneak AROUND Stan, instead of approaching him directly, because why the fuck not? That's what I would do if I was dying and frantically seeking help with my last ounce of strength. Oh, yeah - she's dying, by the way. She looks like a zombie, and she's talking nonsense.

Later, the teachers - who are humans and not aliens - explain to the kids that the old lady had cancer, and that's how cancer patients behave all the time. Elijah Wood spaces out, and turns out the window to see Coach God-Dammit pulling a Michael Myers, and just standing outside, starring at him while he gets drenched under a field of active sprinklers. You know, because he wants to blend in.

That afternoon, after school, Elijah Wood and Delilah decide to sneak into the teachers lounge, because they also happen to work for the school newspaper, and are hoping to find a big scoop. Maybe something like big, mutant turtles. Anyway, while they snoop around, Elijah Wood tells her that she can be pretty cool, when she isn't being "a complete bitch". Somehow, Delilah spins this around as Elijah hitting on her, and it turns out she just wants to feel special like any other girl, and be called sweet pet names like whore and slut. No time for the blossoming romance to advance for now, though. The teachers show up, and the kids hide in the closet, where the body of the old woman has been stashed.

At this point, I need to say something. By now, you've probably noticed I don't exactly think the alien-teachers are doing a good job at blending in amongst the normies. That's because they aren't. They're acting complete out of place, and doing shit like standing in sprinklers like it's nothing, or starring menacingly at the students for no particular reason, other than to be menacing. Now we find out they've stashed the dead old woman in the closet, who we find out, was also taken by an alien, but due to her illness, could not sustain it's life. This is more reasonable than just DISPOSING of the body entirely. Burning it, burying it, or hell, why not just toss her in a lake. She might wake up. John Stewart did it, and he doesn't even realize he shouldn't pet alien monsters.

Anyway, Elijah and Delilah freak out and run away. During the escape, Elijah slips and falls, but Delilah is all "Peace, bitch!" He watches as she runs out the door, and lays there crying for her to stop and wait for him, rather than just quickly collecting himself. He gets away though, and brings the police back. This is a horror flick, so naturally, the police and every other not-alien adult draws the same conclusion from an otherwise responsible and quiet kid coming to them with news that he saw a dead body - he is clearly on drugs. The cops are then converted to the club, and one of them looks at Elijah Wood as if to say, "Yeah, I'm totally an alien now."

The next day at school - and get ready for this.... Delilah has GLASSES on, and her hair in a PONYTAIL. Elijah Wood can barely contain the disgust in his voice when he sees how homely she has become.

What fallows that day is basically just a lot of the school population acting fucked up, while the kids discuss amongst themselves what to do. The teachers convert more students through mandatory "ear exams", and in one case, demanding the students write down the names of all of their family members who live closest. When Stan the genius asks if this information (information about his own family?) will be on the test, the teachers tells him that "This IS the test". Well played, supreme alien beings.

Anyway, the plot finally manages to gather together The Faculty Club. The kids bicker for a bit, some being all cynical, and others being all like, "aliens!" Then John Stewart shows up. He decides that he would most likely be able to take on six teenagers himself, and will decide what to do with their bodies afterwords, and a fight breaks out. The fucked up thing is, the kids are aware something weird has happened to these people they know, but don't know what. They don't know the cause of it or if it can be reversed (it can), and don't bother wonder before they mutilate John Stewart and stab him in the eye with one of Josh Harnett's magic pens. Turns out his gak shit, or whatever it is, is deadly to the aliens. The kids realize the school may not be safe, and decide to split so that they can find the Anamorphs for help.

The kids vacate to Josh Harnett's house, where the guy has a legit lab set up - in his garage, like a fucking meth dealer. Using some crafty experiments, the kids come to a few conclusions about the aliens, mostly that their weaknesses include being stabbed in the eye, and Josh Hartnett's coke/meth shit. They also realize anyone could be an alien by now, and decide they should test to make sure everybody amongst them is human, kind of like that other alien body-snatcher flick, which I'm sure nobody remembers. Since nobody wants to stab themselves in the eye, the kids instead decide to snort some of Harnett's drugs, because getting high is the best way to save the world. Surprise, Delilah's the goose. That explains why she suddenly became so unattractive, she was an alien.

Once again, the kids are very quick to just up and kill whomever, and try to shoot the shit out of Delilah before she makes a cunning escape, but not before trashing Harnett's drug lab. Aliens have a strict zero-tolerance policy. The whole thing wasn't a total loss; the kids decide that if they kill the queen, everyone should be A-O.K. I missed the part where they explained anything about there being a queen, so I don't know if this rationality is founded on any actual facts or not. They figure the best place to find the queen is where everyone else in town will be, the big football game.

They assume Principal Red-Herring is the queen, because it only makes sense that aliens would assign each other roles based on the ladder of authority in a learning environment on another planet. If you couldn't guess on your own, no, Mrs. Principal was not the queen. Shocking. So when that shit doesn't work, Stan decides to go outside the school, to "check it out". I don't know what he's going to check out, or do on his own versus a whole town of possible aliens, but the kids just let him go do it. This plan does not pan out, and Stan joins the Super Awesome Alien Club.

Alright, so I'm gonna speed ahead a little here. Harnett and Elijah decide to make a quick trip outside so that they can get some more alien-killing drugs out of Hartnett's car. There's some chasing, and some tension, and then they're back in the school again, minus Hartnett, who is left to fend for himself. After that, Marybeth decides to throw pretense out the window, and just up and reveals the shocker of all shockers: she has in fact been an alien all along. More than that, she is the QUEEN.

Again, time out. So Marybeth was the queen this whole time? Well then why the fuck was she just kicking it around the school, befriending Stokley and the like? What could this possibly help her people to achieve? Doesn't she have anything more important to do, like I don't know, not dicking around and pretending to be a teenager? Whatever, splitting hairs. She gets naked for no reason, so there's that.

Oh, and meanwhile, Hartnett realizes aliens can survive being decapitated. He finds this out after he chops off a teachers head, and it grows tentacles and whatnot, kind of like that other movie nobody remembers.

Elijah has a brief game of runaway with alien queen Marybeth, while Stokley also becomes alien-ized, and Hartnett gets knocked out, but not converted to the alien squad, because that makes too much sense. The queen goes on about how her planet had oceans, but they dried up, and life is awesome as an alien, and nobody is paying attention anyway because the actress is naked. In the end, the chase leads them behind the bleachers, which Elijah Wood uses to crush the queen (now a big alien and not a hot, naked blond), before stabbing her in the face with drugs. SCIENCE!

Some time later, the FBI and the police are trying to cover the whole thing up. Granted, a whole town was involved, and so that would be a little hard, but the government finds inhibiting the advancement of science and the human race a valuable use of their time, so they try anyway. The kids, meanwhile, have gone through their own changes. Hartnett now plays football for Coach God-Dammit. Stan is free from the burden of his suburban, upper-middle class life, and dates Stokley, who isn't goth anymore because she also needed to grow. Elijah Wood is also dating Delilah now, just because, and meanwhile he's making constant headlines. Him and him alone. I guess nobody else was worth talking to. So, life is awesome, and it was the best summer ever. The End.

That's that. So, in the end, how do I feel about this movie? Well, for as much as I can bag on it for this or that, I kind of like The Faculty. It's, if nothing else, an entertaining movie to watch on a boring afternoon, and it isn't done nearly as badly as it could have been. It may rip off a few other alien movies here and there, but whatever, I can let that slide. Not to mention, it's got a decent ensemble cast. In my opinion, however, the kids should have also been given the ability to transform into animals to fight the alien threat.

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