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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Faculty

July 22nd, 2012

The Faculty - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

And I'm done. With The Faculty, I've seen every single feature-length film Robert Rodriguez has made and I've reviewed nine of them. This is the first film of his to not earn overall positive reviews (not counting Four Rooms, in which he only directed on a segment). Is this a warning sign for all but his more intense fans to stay away? Or is it better than 51% positive?

The Movie

The Faculty is set at a fairly typical high school obsessed with football. The principal, Valerie Drake, informs her teachers that they don't have the money for new computers, field trips, or a musical. However, the football team will get anything it wants, because it's a football town. The teachers are unhappy about this, but so is Principal Drake, but there's nothing she can do. That night, while locking up the school, Principal Drake is attacked by Coach Joe Willis. She manages to get away, temporarily, only to be attacked by another teacher, Mrs. Karen Olson.

The next day, we are introduced to a number of the students at Herrington High School. Zeke, the drug dealer; Stan, the the jock; Casey, the bullied nerd; Stokely, the Emo; Delilah, the queen bee; and Marybeth, the new girl who just moved from the south. We also quickly learn a little about some of the teachers. Professor Furlong has a thing for Nurse Harper, but is too nervous to talk to her. Mr. Tate's an alcoholic. Miss Burke is too timid in front of her class to teach. Harry Knowles has a cameo.

After the prologue and the introductions, we start to see some of the students interact. Stan decides to quit football so he can concentrate on his schoolwork, only to have Delilah dump him, because he's no longer the Alpha Male. Marybeth tries to become friends with Stokely, as she senses Stokely doesn't have any friends. But Delilah chases Stokely away, after calling her a lesbian. Casey spots some weird bug-like... thing, on the football field, and after being chased off by Coach Willis, he goes to Professor Furlong to see what it is. The students in the class gather around, but one of them, Gabe, spills some water on it, it comes alive. When he drops it into the aquarium in the back of the class, it quickly splits into two. It then bites him. Later, when Stan is taking a shower after class, one of the teachers, Mrs. Brummel, walks into the shower and... It's hard to describe. The term that pops into my head is, "melts", her scalp melts offs her skull. Casey sees it and runs for help. However, Mrs. Olson explains she had a medical condition that caused her to lose her hair, and to keep it quiet.

Shortly after that, Casey and Delilah are looking for a story of the school paper and sneak into the teachers' lounge when Coach Willis and Mrs. Olson come in, so they have to hide in the closet. The pair hear the teachers talking about Mrs. Brummel and how they have almost all of the faculty and need to get the students next. This is when Nurse Harper walks into the lounge, only to be attacked by Willis and Olsen. After the attack, the kids are spotted and run for it. Of course, none of the rest of the faculty think anything is wrong, and convincing the police is useless, especially after Principal Drake assimilates him.

The next day, Casey is forced to go to school, but he figures the students are being assimilated as well. You can tell they've been taken, because they start acting differently. Now just a few students, those I mentioned above, are all that's left untouched and they have to figure a way of defeating the alien invasions. Or are they? Are they all really humans? Or is there an alien among them?

The screenwriter for this film, Kevin Williamson, also wrote the first two Scream films, and you can kind of tell he's trying to do the same thing with Body Snatcher movies as he did with Teenage Slashers. It's a really good idea, but the execution is muddled. First of all, for this genre, arguably the most important detail is the amount of information the audience knows vs. the amount of information the characters know. If we know too much too soon, then we lose some of the psychological tension. Perhaps everything is normal and the characters are just paranoid. We really don't get that in this movie. Also, from Casey's point of view, things go from a couple moments that are a little off, but more or less normal, to undeniable proof that something is wrong. We are missing the psychological suspense angle of the plot. This hurts the overall effectiveness of the movie. Secondly, the film uses the Scream trope of the characters being aware of other similar movies. Casey at one point argues that these movies were based on real life events, and that the aliens were responsible for these movies so that when they really did attack, no one would believe it could really be happening till it was too late. Finally, because of the setup, there are also a lot clich├ęs in the movie. These three things should sink the movie.

But here's the thing. It's still fun to watch. While the script has problems that prevents it from taking full advantage of the premise, it is still smartly written with characters that have a lot more depth than their simple introduction would imply. There are also a lot of strong actors in the ensemble cast and the six students have good chemistry together. While the film isn't as suspenseful as it could have been, it is still very strong in that regard and there is also a good pay-off in the finale.

The Extras

There are no extras on the Blu-ray. The video is good, which is a pleasant surprise as the Blu-ray is a budget release. During the brightly lit scenes, there are plenty of details, vibrant colors, strong contrast, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of the film takes place at night, and these scenes are significantly worse. They are still a step-up from the DVD and are not bad per se, but are merely good. The audio is more active than I was expecting with plenty of ambient sounds coming from the rear speakers, the dialogue is clear, and the subwoofer gets some action as well. Not bad for an $11 Blu-ray.

The Verdict

The Faculty is not a great movie, but it is a good movie and one that is worth watching. The featureless Blu-ray is worth the $11 to buy, but I would have preferred to pay more to get more in terms of extras.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Faculty