Monday, October 31, 2011

Bad Teacher

I hadn't intended on discussing Robert Rodriguez' 1998 teen sci-fi horror flick The Faculty (THIRTEEN YEARS OLD!!!), but having just rewatched it (part of my all time horror movie marathon, apparently - I really just had an urge to watch it) I just had to. What a peculiar movie! I remember enjoying it a lot at the time, but I didn't expect it to hold up so well. In fact, I'd say it's actually improved with age. It's Scream meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers, sure, but is that such a bad thing? Williamson's late-'90s knack for snappy teen dialogue and fun takes on slasher conventions (this was the last film of Williamson's successful run of Scream, Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Dawson's Creek and The Faculty before seemingly losing every once of talent in his typing fingers) with Robert Rodriguez' directorial skills that flourish under the film's blending of genre seems to work despite initially coming off as an awkward combination.

The Faculty proved to be a whole lot of fun. It actually reminded me of a far better version of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Go Fish" (s02e20). It features some great chase sequences (I particularly liked the one in the parking lot that ends with a wicked riff on John Carpenter's The Thing) and a refreshing bunch of teenagers. Williamson's screenplay is typically loaded with filmic references - obvious: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Puppet Master; less obvious: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, Blue Velvet, The Breakfast Club - but never offputtingly so. The cast are uniformly great, with special commendation going to the adults. Robert Patrick is able to do so many great things with his face and it's disappointing he doesn't get to give such physically varied performances more often. Piper Laurie (below) is fun, and so to is Famke Jannsen who gets a wonderful scene with Josh Hartnett that makes me thankful the boys at Dimension Films and Miramax decided this wasn't going to be a PG-13 teen flick. Bebe Neuwirth, too, is clearly having a hoot at the villainous principle who gets to wear short skirts and somehow managed to be the only adult actor credited on the UK blu-ray cover. I'm not entirely sure how that happened when the rest of the cast includes Salma Hayek, Jon Stewart and, hell, even Usher, but there you go.

Speaking of Hayek and Stewart, here they are sharing a scene with Harry "AICN" Knowles. Surreal, party of three.

I don't know how that happened other than corporate shilling, much like when Knowles' head appeared on Leatherface's sewing table (!) in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake of '03. Weird.

It's funny though how completely Miramax The Faculty is. Very much of that era, the film suffers from a similar problem to Halloween H20, which we discussed early today, in that at times it feels like it's trying to be Scream more than its own film. Whereas Steve Miner's 20th anniversary Halloween actually just flat out used Marco Beltrami's Scream music, The Faculty went and hired Beltrami to do his own soundalike score. If you'd asked me I would say it was the music from Scream in a scene or two, especially given the company's history of doing so, but since Beltrami is the credited composer on this film I'll believe that he just got lazy and did some minor tweaks to some old (yet excellent) music. I liked the unexpected nod to the bizarre gym shower scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, but thought so blatantly copying The Thing's blood test scene (but this time with... snorting no-doze? this film was curiously open about showing teenagers taking drugs) was lazy and sorta out of left field since the aliens don't seem to care about making the unchanged think there's nothing wrong with them. I did like the lack of CGI though, and particularly liked the climax sequence's use of shadow, which I thought marked a subdued note for this sort of film. Any dollar bet though that if made in 2011 it would be flying tentacle limbs all over the place!

Also: Shawn Hatosy? Total cutie. Ahem.

Whatever happened to him? What happened to most of this cast? I'm sure they're working plenty, but I haven't seen many of them (Clea DuVall, Famke Janssen, Josh Hartnett, etc) in a while. B+


pturner1010 said...

Love this film but despite the shadows, I think it's a shame they went all CGI for the climax. Two best scenes; 1 when they have to walk out of the classroom and everyones looking at them after they've killed the teacher and 2. when they've all got to sniff the drug in Zeke's lab. Great tense stuff!

thebutcher said...

Shawn Hattosy was on "Dexter" last year, playing a serial killer/rapist who's also a dead animal pickup guy by day. Fun stuff!