Today’s feature is Robert Rodriguez’s 1998 Sci-Fi / Horror flick, The Faculty.
The screenplay for The Faculty was written by Kevin Williamson, who is best known for his work on the slashers Scream, Scream 2, and I Know What You Did Last Summer. The screenplay based on a story concept that is credited to David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel, who have (among other things) produced the hit television show Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
The Faculty was directed and edited by cult favorite auteur Robert Rodriguez, who has been behind such films as Planet Terror, Machete, Desperado, Spy Kids, From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City, and the notorious micro-budget classic El Mariachi.
The cinematographer for The Faculty was Enrique Chediak, who also shot the films 127 Hours, 28 Weeks Later, and Repo Men.
The musical score for The Faculty was provided by Marco Beltrami, who also provided music for such films as Snowpiercer, The Hurt Locker, Resident Evil, Mimic, and Scream.
The producing team for The Faculty was led by the infamous duo of Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who are best known for helming Miramax and The Weinstein Company, and through them regularly dominating annual awards shows. The Faculty was produced through the Dimension label, which Bob Weinstein ran to specifically focus on profitable horror movies. The rest of the producers included Tamara Smith (Spy Kids), Bill Scott (Predators, Sin City), and Elizabeth Avellan (Sin City, Desperado).
The makeup effects team for The Faculty included Greg Nicotero (From Beyond, DeepStar Six, Pick Me Up, Maniac Cop 3, The Black Cat), Howard Berger (Troll, Maniac Cop 3, 976-EVIL, In The Mouth of Madness), Chris Hanson (S. Darko, Hellboy), Robert Kurtzman (It Follows, Maniac Cop 3, DeepStar Six, From Beyond, Late Phases), Don Malot (From Dusk Till Dawn), Ermahn Ospina (Sin City, Desperado), and Alan Tuskes (The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Cell).
The group of special effects workers on The Faculty was made up in part by Evan Campbell (Dogma, Elves, Spawn), Mike Edmonson (DeepStar Six, Theodore Rex, Wild Wild West, Daredevil), David Heron (Van Helsing, Daredevil, The Core), Scott Kodrik (Mortal Kombat, Batman & Robin), James W. McCormick (RoboCop 2, Sin City), John McLeod (Leonard Part 6, Howard the Duck), Mike Reedy (Wild Wild West, RoboCop 3), Wayne Toth (Wishmaster, Vampire in Brooklyn), and Bill Zahn (Carnosaur, Battlefield Earth).
The visual effects crew for The Faculty included such members as Michel Barriere (Pacific Rim, Battlefield Earth), William L. Arance (Superman IV, Bordello of Blood), Louise Bertrand (Mimic, Jurassic World), Ozzie Carmona (Son of the Mask, Van Helsing), Scott Coulter (It’s Alive, Shark Attack 3, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, The Mangler, Arena), Sean C. Cunningham (Apollo 13, X-Men), John Joyce (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Core), Tom Lamb (Son of the Mask, Van Helsing), Jeryd Pojawa (The Core, The Abyss), Mark Ross-Sullivan (Mars Attacks, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), and Rooster Teeth’s Matt Hullum.
The impressively deep cast of The Faculty included Josh Hartnett (Lucky Number Slevin, Sin City), Elijah Wood (North, The Good Son, Sin City), Jon Stewart (Death To Smoochy), Salma Hayek (Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn), Clea DuVall (Argo), Jordana Brewster (The Fast & The Furious), Laura Harris (Dead Like Me), Famke Jannsen (X-Men), Piper Laurie (Carrie, Hesher), Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore), Bebe Neuwirth (Jumanji), Robert Patrick (The X-Files), and Usher Raymond (In The Mix).
Sarah Michelle Gellar and Charisma Carpenter of Buffy The Vampire Slayer both reportedly turned down roles in The Faculty, as well as Gillian Anderson of The X-FIles.
The production of The Faculty was essentially a Weinstein patchwork creation that was pulled together in the wake of their Dimension mega-hit Scream, in an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle. The initial screenplay had been floating around without any takers for some time, but the Weinsteins decided to pick it up and have Scream‘s Kevin Williamson do rewrites on the dialogue and the characters to punch it up. Rodriguez was, at the time, a trustworthy Miramax-experienced director who looked to have massive potential after 1996’s hit From Dusk Till Dawn.
The Faculty was made on an estimated production budget of $15 million, on which it grossed well over $40 million in its theatrical run. In spite of its decent box office returns, critics and audiences weren’t terribly impressed with the film at the time. The Rotten Tomatoes aggregator currently has the film at 54% approval from critics and 55% approval from audiences, along with an IMDb rating of 6.4.
It is pretty clear to me that audiences and critics at the time found the formula in The Faculty a bit too similar to Scream, but time seems to have allowed people nowadays to appreciate it as a work on its own. Still, it is not nearly as adept of a genre deconstruction as Scream, and the comparisons were (and are) inevitable. The fact that it was very much engineered by the Weinsteins in order to capitalize on Scream almost assuredly contributed to the bitter taste in many people’s mouths. All of that considered, however, the team of Rodriguez and Williamson created something that is genuinely entertaining and fun with The Faculty, even if it wasn’t a genre-redefining masterpiece like Scream.
The effects work on The Faculty is a mixed bag when looking back on it nearly two decades down the line. The practical effects, as you would expect, still look pretty good. The visual effects and computerized stuff, on the other hand, don’t look nearly as sharp. That said, for a 1998 movie, they were probably top of the line.
One of the biggest things that I noticed going back to The Faculty is the fantastic casting, and how many familiar faces are littered throughout the deep stable of characters. The fact that there isn’t just one obvious star helps build a sense of uncertainty, and drives home the idea that any one of the central party could be a false hero. That said, there are almost unarguably too many characters in the story, which is something that I assume was a result of the Williamson rewrite. While it helps with the general tone and sense of unease, the downside is that all of the characters are forced into shorthand stereotypes for the sake of time.
The Faculty is overall a pretty fun watch, and has benefited from the passage of time to crawl out from beneath Scream‘s shadow. The lack of any sequels serving to tarnish its reputation (like what happened to Scream) has also helped to preserve the flick in many ways. If you haven’t gone back to watch it in a while, it is worth your while for the nostalgia trip alone.