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The Faculty Blu-ray Review

The Faculty (1998) movie poster The Faculty

Theatrical Release: December 25, 1998 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Robert Rodriguez / Writers: Kevin Williamson (screenplay); David Wechter, Bruce Kimmel (story)

Cast: Jordana Brewster (Delilah Proffitt), Clea DuVall (Stokely "Stokes" Mitchell), Laura Harris (Marybeth Louise Hutchinson), Josh Hartnett (Zeke Tyler), Shawn Hatosy (Stan Rosado), Salma Hayek (Nurse Rosa Harper), Famke Janssen (Miss Elizabeth Burke), Piper Laurie (Mrs. Karen Olson), Christopher McDonald (Mr. Frank Connor), Bebe Neuwirth (Principal Valerie Drake), Robert Patrick (Coach Joe Willis), Usher Raymond (Gabe Santora), Jon Stewart (Professor Edward Furlong), Daniel Von Bargen (Mr. John Tate), Elijah Wood (Casey Connor), Summer Phoenix (F*%# You Girl), Jon Abrahams (F*%# You Boy), Susan Willis (Mrs. Jessica Brummel), Pete Janssen (Eddie "Meat" McIvey), Tina Rodriguez (Tattoo Girl), Danny Masterson (F*%# Up #1), Wiley Wiggins (F*%# Up #2), Harry Knowles (Mr. Knowles), Libby Villari (Casey's Mom), Duane Martin (Officer Campbell)

Buy The Faculty from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Double Feature DVD with Phantoms VHS

After getting the world's attention with his legendarily inexpensive film debut El Mariachi, writer/director Robert Rodriguez was more than welcome in Hollywood. His sequel, the $7 million Desperado, turned a healthy profit in 1995. After that, Rodriguez began collaborating with Quentin Tarantino, each contributing a segment to the anthology fizzle Four Rooms.
Rodriguez then directed Tarantino's vampire screenplay From Dusk Till Dawn, getting his biggest budget to date of $20 M without the strongest of results.

While Tarantino went on hiatus following the release of his Jackie Brown, Rodriguez teamed with another hip young screenwriter on The Faculty, a sci-fi horror movie set in high school. The scribe was Kevin Williamson, then riding very high on teen genre success from the two Scream movies and I Know What You Did Last Summer (not to mention, his WB drama creation "Dawson's Creek"). Opening Christmas Day 1998, The Faculty would become the biggest hit of Rodriguez's career by theater count and ticket sales.

The film is set in Herrington High School, an Ohio institute interchangeable with most high school depictions. The language is decidedly R-rated and the student body quite angsty. Our focus and sympathy lies with a varied group of six students: intelligent drug-dealing 5th year senior Zeke (Josh Hartnett); bullied nerd Casey (Elijah Wood); pretty head cheerleader and newspaper editor Delilah (Jordana Brewster), her boyfriend and the football team's star quarterback, Stan (Shawn Hatosy); "lesbian" loner Stokley (Clea Duvall); and cheery Atlanta transfer Marybeth (Laura Harris).

In the name of investigative journalism, Casey (Elijah Wood) and Delilah (Jordana Brewster) sneak into the faculty lounge in search of answers. Coach Willis (Robert Patrick) hasn't quite been his usual self since the incident that gave him the scratches on his cheek.

Only those comprising this standard-issue sextet notice something strange going on at school. We notice it too, from the moment that the hard-ass football coach (Robert Patrick) eerily preys on tightwad Principal Drake (Bebe Neuwirth) after a meeting one night. Other teachers begin exhibiting odd characteristics as well, as an elderly teacher (Susan Willis) storms into the locker room showers and loses chunks of hair. Doing some investigative work in the faculty lounge, Casey and Delilah spot Coach Willis and oddly made-over drama teacher Mrs. Olson (Carrie's Piper Laurie) attacking the school nurse (Salma Hayek). The staff has a logical explanation for what the students saw and frightfully reported to the police. But while the authorities and Casey's parents write off the concerns, the kids are convinced that something is amiss.

Sci-fi enthusiasts Stokely and Casey believe they have an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-type scenario playing out before their very eyes. Their suspicions appear to be confirmed when their science teacher (a pre-"Daily Show" Jon Stewart) bugs out with tentacles and menace.

As luck or contrivance would have it, "Scat", the powder that Zeke has been peddling (mostly caffeine with a few other ingredients), proves to be the antidote to the body-occupying aliens. Taking its cues from John Carpenter's The Thing, the kids harbor doubt as to who among them has already been infected, doing test snorts of the drug to ease their suspicions.

Being an ensemble horror movie, the ranks of Herrington inevitably thin, as the alien being attaches to members of the core group while they try to identify and eliminate the Queen, without whom the rest should die off. If they can't do that, they reason that civilization as they know it is doomed.

Principal Drake (Bebe Neuwirth) and Mr. John Tate (Daniel Von Bargen) respond incredulously to reports of teacher malfeasance. Zeke (Josh Hartnett) runs tests on a mouse as Casey (Elijah Wood) and Stan (Shawn Hatosy) look on.

As long as you can accept its numerous conceits and coincidences, you should find The Faculty to be passable entertainment. This is very clearly a product of Kevin Williamson, his irony-heavy postmodern style full of references to modern fiction (Independence Day, Men in Black, "The X-Files", etc.).
The Rodriguez side of it comes into play in the use of some gory action, including some cheesy visual effects clearly limited by the modest budget, presumably a point of pride.

This is a textbook MTV movie, although it wasn't produced by them or recognized by their Movie Awards (whose Breakthrough Male Performance nomination for Hartnett went to his debut in the Williamson-produced late summer release Halloween H20). The soundtrack is full of modern bands' covers of 1970s youth anthems, like Creed's take on Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen", the short-lived Class of '99's variation on Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall", and Shawn Mullins' rendition of David Bowie's "Changes", all no doubt conceived with promotional music videos and soundtrack CD sales in mind.

One suspects that many of those who attended this film also paid to see Williamson's other trendy slashers. The writer's cinematic reign would prove to be quite brief; his subsequent screenplay and directorial debut, a 1999 film ultimately called Teaching Mrs. Tingle (which was titled Killing Mrs. Tingle, but renamed after the Columbine shootings), bombed hard and Williamson has mostly stuck to television or kept to himself since, only adding two theatrical credits this century (Wes Craven's Cursed and the underperforming Scream 4). Though Williamson certainly deserves credit for reviving and retooling film horror, his ironic, comedic take on the genre did not really stick, with violence (so-called torture porn), imaginative frugality (found footage), and familiarity (remakes) prevailing in recent years.

As with many movies driven by young characters, this one has its fair share of breakout actors, with Wood landing the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hartnett enjoying leading man status for several years to come (bolstered by a role in the lame Pearl Harbor), and Brewster remaining relevant exclusively through her involvement in the never-ending Fast and Furious franchise. Other notable cast members include: R&B star Usher, whose pop success earned him disproportionate poster and cover art prominence; Famke Janssen (a Bond girl soon to be known as the X-Men's Jean Grey); Jon Abrahams (soon of Scary Movie and Meet the Parents); and Danny Masterson (on the verge of being widely recognized from the doubly-syndicated hit sitcom "That '70s Show"). Shaggy, obese, bearded redheaded Internet fanboy Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News gets his biggest film role to date as a teacher named Mr. Knowles. Also, partly because I'm still haunted by the traumatic headlines (apparently unfollowed up on) that he grabbed earlier this year, I feel compelled to acknowledge Daniel von Bargen, best-known as George Constanza's boss Mr. Kruger in four final season episodes of "Seinfeld" and a recurring stint on "Malcolm in the Middle", who has tremendous presence as an alcoholic teacher here.

The Faculty Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), LPCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 31, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25) / Blue Keepcase
Still available from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment as DVD ($6.99 SRP; April 12, 2011) and Double Feature DVD ($19.99 SRP; October 25, 2011) with Phantoms ($9.99 SRP; April 19, 2011), and Masters of Terror 8-Movie Pack DVD ($19.99 SRP; September 6, 2011) Coming soon on 12-Film Action Pack DVD (19.99 SRP; August 21, 2012)
Previously released by Buena Vista on DVD (June 22, 1999) and VHS (November 2, 1999)

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Faculty looks quite good in high definition. The element is never as sharp as it might be at other studios, but it is clean and well-defined throughout. Colors run a little pale or dark, presumably true to the film's original look. Undoubtedly, the 1.85:1 widescreen presentation handily bests the non-anamorphic transfer on Disney's original DVD and I'd suspect the gains over Echo Bridge's own, in-print, 16:9-enhanced DVD are also evident.

For whatever reason, the English soundtrack is offered in 5.1 DTS-HD master audio, Dolby Digital 5.1, and LPCM 2.0 stereo. I went with the default DTS mix and was quite pleased with the results. This is an active and immersive mix, which distributes its elements appropriately and comes to life with action and music. Unfortunately, Echo Bridge fails to provide subtitles of any kind, which is hardly a surprise but perhaps still the Blu-ray's biggest disappointment.

Professor Edward Furlong (Jon Stewart) shows his students (including Usher and Clea DuVall) a newly-discovered species found on school premises in The Faculty's yellow-tinted Blu-ray menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Faculty hits Blu-ray with nary a bonus feature. That is one less than it received on DVD back in 1999 when Miramax/Dimension was a part of the Disney family. All it got there was its original theatrical trailer, something Echo Bridge has not been good about retaining
on their releases of the lesser Miramax library they inherited. The omission is especially noteworthy because, according to IMDb, the movie's trailers include a number of unused moments that have yet to show up in a deleted scenes section.

With The Faculty being well-received, DVD bonus features starting to take off at the time, and Rodriguez already inclined to his distinct brand of supplements, it is surprising that this movie never got anything of note on DVD. That seems highly unlikely to change in the ownership of Echo Bridge, a studio whose value-driven strategy doesn't assign much importance to extras.

The menu loops a simple yellow-green-tinted 30-second montage to music. Though the BD does not support bookmarks, it does manage to resume unfinished playback. The standard blue keepcase does not include an insert, slipcover, or distinguishing feature, but at least the disc boasts full color art.

The giant beast emerging from the Herrington High swimming pool would appear to be alien in nature.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Faculty falls short of horror movie greatness, but it is enjoyable piece of entertainment that clearly belongs to the genre's late-'90s youth movement that writer Kevin Williamson embodied. Though not too characteristic of Robert Rodriguez's work (probably because it is one of just two movies he directed without writing), he brings a competence to guide the largely unproven young cast through a fairly standard regiment of twists and deaths.

With its complete lack of subtitles and special features, Echo Bridge's Blu-ray is a little disappointing. But it no doubt treats the film to its best picture and sound to date and at a reasonable price. Though only the most serious of fans will probably deem this a must-have release, their collections will ever so slightly be strengthened by the acquisition of this disc.

Buy The Faculty from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Double Feature DVD with Phantoms / VHS

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Related Reviews:
New: Dirty Pretty Things Margaret 21 Jump Street Spider-Man Ransom Newsies Men in Black
Directed by Robert Rodriguez: RoadRacers Four Rooms Sin City
Jordana Brewster: Annapolis | Elijah Wood: Oliver Twist | Clea DuVall: Zodiac
Robert Patrick: Bridge to Terabithia Ladder 49 Strange Wilderness | Jon Stewart: A Colbert Christmas
Bebe Neuwirth: Say Anything... | Piper Laurie: The Hustler Return to Oz | Shawn Hatosy: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
1990s Teens: Varsity Blues 10 Things I Hate About You Clueless Rushmore I'll Be Home for Christmas
1998: Armageddon The Big Lebowski That '70s Show: Season 1 Home Improvement: Season 8 Sabrina, the Teenage Witch: Season 3
Contagion The Crazies

The Faculty Songs List (in order of use): The Offspring - "The Kids Aren't Alright", Piper Laurie - "Guys and Dolls", Soul Asylum - "School Is Out", D Generation - "Helpless", Stabbing Westward - "Haunting Me", Sheryl Crow - "Resuscitation", Garbage - "Medication", Creed - "I'm Eighteen", Class of '99 featuring Layne Staley, Tom Morello, Stephen Perkins, Martyn LeNoble, and Matt Serletic - "Another Brick in the Wall Part II", Neve - "It's Over Now", Shawn Mullins - "Changes", Oasis - "Stay Young", Los Feelers - "Crackerjacks"

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Reviewed July 24, 2012.



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