The Faculty is a time capsule from 1998. When, it seems, everything had to be a cross-genre teen-movie, set in a high school campus and featuring loads of comedy gags and bloody gore.
And yes The Faculty is a science fiction horror film… that’s set in a high school campus and it does feature comedy and gore. These teen and twenty-something films often had an obligatory 90s rock/pop/indie soundtrack. They were populated by pretty, disillusioned teenagers unable to ‘be themselves’, and fighting the bullshit and hypocrisy of the adult world. On TV there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer and in the cinemas there was Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Final Destination.
These teen movies, popcorn horrors, are self-aware mass entertainment. They play with existing genre tropes and cliches. They’re coming-of-age stories, gore fest movies, and stories about teenage identity and rebellion. The Faculty is completely at home in this milieu. It’s the kind of film that teenagers would have watched as part of a larger group on a Friday night outing. Rather than seeing the clichés as clichés, they would have understood them to be tongue-in-cheek quotes from popular culture.
The 90s teen horror was packed with shocks and sudden frights. They delighted in reversing fortunes, introducing plot wildcards, rapidly killing off the characters, and turning innocent situations, locations and characters into something bloody and menacing.
The Faculty incorporates every possible genre cliché — a parasitical alien life-form invades a high school, first taking over the faculty and then the students. A bunch of disgruntled kids, who previously hated one another, are forced to work together to defeat the alien being.
The film has been influenced by Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Thing, The Breakfast Club, Cat People, Halloween, The Puppet Masters, and Stepford Wives. And, even though it’s at ease with itself for being the sum of its parts, has a star cast, and plenty of fast paced action, it never outgrows its lack of ambition to become genre defining.