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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/29/99

The Faculty
1998 (1999) - Dimension (Buena Vista)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The Faculty Film Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/D-

Specs and Features

104 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (31 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

It's just another day at good old Harrington High (a.k.a. the high school from Hell)... that is until a bunch of the teachers start acting a little creepy. Ah, heck -- you always knew the Coach was just one whistle blow away from cracking, didn't you? You just didn't know it was because he had a parasitic alien squid in his ear. Whodda thunk it? Well, before long, a motley band of Harrington students has correctly guessed that there's an alien invasion afoot. You've got the obligatory geek (played by Elijah Wood), the male stoner (who deals caffeine nose candy in Bic pens and full-frontal nudity on VHS for all the good young kiddies), the female anti-social type ("I'm not really a lesbian, it's just a front"), the jock (naturally, the captain of the football team), the head cheerleader (surprise), and the blonde, goodie-two-shoes new girl from way down South (surprise again -- she's the one who gets bare-ass naked). Thems our heroes folks, and as their fellow students all slowly succumb to alien infestation, it's up to them to save the Earth. God help us all.

The Faculty is just the latest entry in the teen-chic horror genre, except this flick steals a few script pages from classic sci-fi, and throws in a little '90s hip, and doesn't manage to do much with either. This is definitely one of those cases where, despite the best intentions, and plenty of talent behind the camera, everything sort of misses the mark. I frankly expected much more from the teaming of director Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi) and writer Kevin Williamson (Scream). Rodriguez had initially been hired by Steven Spielberg to helm The Mask of Zorro. When Rodriguez pulled out of that film, The Faculty was his rebound project -- and it shows. The Faculty is cookie cutter grade B cheese -- either this was the fastest production ever, script to screen, or everyone just phoned their part in. I like horror. I especially like sci-fi. And I really wanted to believe all the hype this film got, and like it too. But the scares here are sub-standard (what few there are), the dialogue is tired, the borrowed sci-fi plot takes some pretty dubious leaps of logic, and (worst of all) the film is as predictable as can be. I watched this disc with my wife and some friends, and not even halfway through, we'd nailed who the queen alien was, and what our heroes' ultimate secret weapon would be. It was painfully obvious.

Thankfully, in terms of DVD quality, The Faculty redeems itself somewhat. The letterboxed widescreen picture is, as usual from Buena Vista, non-anamorphic. I'm getting tired of saying how disappointing that is in every review I do of their product. But the print used, and the transfer and compression done, are all very good. The color here is excellent. There's good detail most of the time, with only minor edge enhancement visible. The contrast is also very good, with deep blacks, and excellent shadow detail. You'll see some slight digital artifacting, but it's very minor. All in all, it looks pretty good (and anamorphic enhancement might have made it that much better).

But the sound is the real star on this DVD (okay, a daytime soap kinda star, but a star nonetheless). This is pretty good Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The soundstage is surprisingly deep, with a very acoustic surround mix. There are some occasional rear channel gimmicks, used to reinforce a couple of scares, but all said, this is very natural soundfield. Surprisingly, there's not as much call for rear channel and panning effects in The Faculty as you might think given the genre -- the audio here is mostly dialogue and throbbing rock music. And I did notice a puzzling lack of bass to the mix -- this isn't a disc you'll overwork your subwoofer with. Still, the audio on this disc does the trick when it has to. The only extra provided is a theatrical trailer (I don't consider Buena Vista's "film recommendations" page an extra, thank you very much).

Is The Faculty worth buying on DVD? I don't know. I guess if you've just gotta have it, or are a big fan of the film's creators, then go for it. The disc is definitely worth a rent. The Faculty is not a truly bad flick. It can be fun to watch, even if just for the bigger stars you get to see playing campy bit roles as squid-infested teachers (some no doubt as favors to Rodriguez), among them Salma Hayek, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick and Jon Stewart. But scary it ain't -- kinda creepy, but not at all scary. If you really dig teen horror, watch Scream again. And if you like creepy sci-fi, give Alien, The Thing, or Invasion of the Body Snatchers a spin instead. You'll be a lot more satisfied.

Bill Hunt

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