The Faculty - * *

And another film rolls out of the teen-horror factory. But, The Faculty shows promise: it has some decent talent attached, and seems to be a change of pace from your run-of-the-mill serial killer stalking teenagers film. Is it any good? Well, it’s better than your standard slasher fare, but hardly enjoyable enough to be called a “good” movie.

There’s something odd about the faculty at Herrington High School. Not only have they begun consuming large quantities of water, but they’ve been acting…strangely. Could it be that alien body snatchers are at work? Several students think so.

An unlikely band of students team up to try and stop the invasion. It starts out with trendy cheerleader/newspaper editor Delilah (Jordana Brewster) and the hopelessly nerdy photographer Casey (Elijah Wood). But soon they’ve roped in Delilah’s ex-boyfriend, the ex-quarterback Stan (Shawn Wayne Hatosy), and the sci-fi obsessed gothic wannabe lesbian Stokely (Clea DuVall). Rounding out the group are the brilliant loser, who peddles his own homemade drugs, Zeke (Josh Hartnett), and the perky new girl, Marybeth (Laura Harris).

Armed only with their knowledge of body-snatcher cliches, these teens must face down such fearsome foes as Coach Willis (Robert Patrick), Nurse Harper (Salma Hayek), Miss Burke (Famke Janssen), Miss Olsen (Piper Laurie), and the sinister Principal Drake (Bebe Neuwirth).

The script for The Faculty was written by the vastly overrated Kevin Williamson, of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer fame. Once again, he is good at pointing out cliches, but displays little or no originality of his own. Williamson does give the characters knowledge of those cliches (which raises him one rung above the average horror film writer), but doesn’t use that knowledge to go anywhere. As a result, the film simply revisits the same territory as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or The Thing, without any real surprises.

The characters, while all shallow archetypes, are at least well played. Those in, or recently out of, high school will recognize at least a few of the various types among the oversimplifications here. On a purely escapist revenge-seeking level, the film does work in a way. The every-teens here are able to wreak revenge upon the every-teachers who have tormented them.

The special effects of the film include some potentially interesting concepts, but they’re hamstrung by flawed execution. Many of the effects, which are intended to look creepy, are goofy instead. Even the film’s ultimate CGI creature looks rather unremarkable… The novelty of computer-generated monsters has worn off, and special effects artists need to return to creating innovative designs.

Director Robert Rodriguez, who has successfully created tense and suspenseful scenes in the past, has lost his touch here. A few of the scenes hint at his prior potential, but they’re all hobbled in one way or another. There’s rarely an feeling of true danger, and when there is…you simply don’t care.

Still, compared with the string of recent horror films, The Faculty is one of the better entries in this struggling genre. In may even be worth a look when it arrives at your local rental store. But, particularly at this time of year, you can do much better than The Faculty when at your local theater.

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