Thursday, August 6, 2020

‘The Faculty’ Gave a Generation of Teens Their Own ‘Body Snatchers’ [We Love ’90s Horror]

The ‘90s often get a bad rap with horror fans. After the numerous successful slashers and creature effects films of the ’80s, the ‘90s offered a different variety of horror fare. Though there were plenty of hits, hidden gems, and misunderstood classics, the ‘90s usually don’t get the kind of love that other decades get when it comes to horror. It’s time to change that.

This column recently highlighted Abel Ferrara’s excellent 1993 riff on Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers, and it felt fitting to follow up that screening with a far more well-known ‘90s take on the concept: 1998’s The Faculty.

This time, the alien invasion and possession takes place in an Ohio high school. It’s the perfect setting for a story about the fears of conformity. Schools are institutions that function on enforcing uniformity, and Kevin Williamson’s script perfectly keys into these teenage anxieties about loss of individuality. Plus, making the initial alien hosts the teachers helps to drive home the overall distrust of adult authority figures, a theme that’s present in a majority of horror aimed at teenage audiences.

Speaking of Williamson, he was hot off the first two Scream films and I Know What You Did Last Summer, and his trademarked cheekiness and metadiscourse are present in The Faculty but not to an overwhelming extent. More importantly, director Robert Rodriguez had just finished From Dusk Till Dawn and brought a level of production polish and savvy that enhances Williamson’s script at every turn. Though Rodriguez became enamored with green screen and digital effects later in his career, his talents were arguably at their best on practical sets and locations. The Faculty never comes off as phony due to its direction and a lot of that is thanks to Rodriguez.

Not to mention the effects work in the movie still manages to hold up. Yes, there are obvious CG elements but Rodriguez knows when to showcase them and when to rely on practical effects and gags. Thankfully, the practical stuff is handled by the legendary studio KNB EFX and it’s uniformly awesome. The enormous queen alien creature in the film’s climax is one of the great creatures of ‘90s horror. All around, the creature and effects aspects of The Faculty are all a hoot and deserve more recognition than they get. This is a flick where Famke Janssen’s decapitated head grows tentacles and crawls back to its body. You love to see it.

Speaking of the cast, this entire paragraph could be filled up by simply listing the jaw-dropping amount of notable actors in this ensemble. Not a single role is thoughtlessly filled as Rodriguez gets to work with the likes of Robert Patrick, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, Daniel von Bargen, Salma Hayek, and a slew of then-rising stars like Elijah Wood, Clea DuVall, Jordana Brewster, Josh Hartnett, and even Usher! And that’s still not everyone you’ll recognize in this flick. As far as delightful ensembles go in ‘90s horror, The Faculty is in serious competition for the decade’s best collection of actors.

Most importantly, The Faculty runs with its Body Snatchers premise and has a ball with filtering through a teen movie lens. The original draft of the screenplay was written by David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel, but Williamson was brought on to rewrite it, add more characters, and give it a more youthful vibe. He certainly succeeded and The Faculty stands next to his other teen movie efforts in terms of humorous tone and genre fun.

The Faculty has developed a cult following in recent years and it has more than earned it. It’s a digestible, silly, well-paced little morsel of sci-fi/horror. Every generation should have its own singular riff on The Body Snatchers. While Ferrara’s version is the one that feels most resonant for adults, The Faculty is the one that speaks to teenagers in a language they’ll understand. In other words, The Faculty is guaranteed to jack you up.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!


Some of Scary Horror Stuff's Freakiest Short Horror Film Features!

The latest on the horror genre, everything you need to know, from Freddy Krueger to Edgar Allan Poe.

How Plausible Is It to Have the "Hocus Pocus" Kids Back for Some More Halloween Hijinks?

Potentially very good. See below. It turns out that the announcement is official according to the Carrie Bradshaw of the Sanderson bunch (Sarah Jessica Parker): there will be a "Hocus Pocus" sequel, premiering on Disney+.