The ’90s were a golden age for the horror genre. While horror movies from earlier in the decade like Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Candyman (1992) were changing the genre and adding new layers to what a horror film could be, it was Scream in 1996 that is almost single-handedly credited with jumpstarting the modern wave of slasher films. From there, sequels were made, and the slasher genre was given new life with films like I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and Urban Legend (1998).
But one film in 1998 stands above the rest as one of the smartest, darkest, greatest horror movies of the decade. This film is The Faculty. The movie is a revamp of Robert Heinlein’s horror/SciFi novel The Puppet Masters (1951) where parasitic aliens attempt to take over the human race. Here are 10 reasons why it’s absolutely critical that you watch this movie right now.
10 The Cast
The cast of The Faculty is so perfect that God himself couldn’t have assembled a better ensemble. The main cast was a collection of young 90’s talent, from Elijah Wood, Josh Harnett, Jordana Brewster, and Usher, along with indie darlings Clea DuVall, and Laura Harris.
The adults in the film were an even cooler assortment of A-listers, Hollywood elites, and famed character actors. Most notable is John Stewart, who played the school’s science teacher, along with Famke Janssen, Robert Patrick (famous for being T-1000 in T2), Selma Hayak, triple-threat Bebe Neuwirth, and of course, horror favorite Piper Laurie, best known as the mom from the original Carrie and Cathrine Martell from Twin Peaks. The best part? That isn’t even the entire cast. When you watch The Faculty, there will be a handful of other faces you’re sure to recognize.
9 The Effects
In the climax of the film, the alien queen is revealed, and the scene is epic and glorious, transforming this sleek teen horror film into a classic monster movie. The best part was that the film used animatronics and puppets whenever possible, creating the believability and realism that can only come when the actors have a real physical model to work with. Plus, the alien looks really awesome.
8 The Ridiculousness of Zeke
Josh Hartnett’s character in the film is Zeke, the 90’s bad boy with absent parents, but who’s secretly highly intelligent and has a heart of gold. Zeke makes his money by selling drugs to his classmates hidden in Bic pens that have had the ink removed.
During one scene, the kids run away from school and hide in Zeke’s basement. There it’s revealed that he has a full-blown laboratory going on, complete with beakers, test tubes, Bunson burners, volumetric flasks, and a cage of mice that he does experiments on… wtf? It’s completely absurd, but also perfectly fits into the vibe of the film.
7 The Creators
The film was almost guaranteed to be awesome given the fact that its creators were director Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn) and screenwriter Kevin Williamson (Scream). Williamson in particular practically created the entire 90’s horror explosion, writing Scream, Scream 2, The Faculty, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and was the co-executive producer of Halloween: H20 He was even the creator of Dawson’s Creek; in essence, Kevin Williamson basically ran the ’90s.
Prior to The Faculty, Rodriguez had made From Dusk Till Dawn and Desperado, and would later go on to make films like Sin City and Planet Terror. With these two on board, The Faculty was bound to be a wild ride that could have only been possible in the ’90s.
6 That Fight Scene Between Josh Hartnett and Famke Janssen
In the film, one of the side-effects of the alien parasites infecting the human’s brains was that it would change people’s personalities. Janssen’s character, Miss Burke, starts the film as a sweater-clad, glasses-wearing pushover. After she’s infected though, she lets her hair down, puts on a tank top, and doesn’t take shit from anyone.
In one infamous scene, she catches Hartnett’s character, Zeke, selling drugs on school grounds. The new and improved Miss Burke confronts him, offering up some great lines like, “I’m sick of you, little boy… and if I have to see you peddling your little “wonder dust” again, I’m gonna shove my foot so far up your ass, you’ll be sucking my toes ’till graduation!”
5 The Epic Pre-Credits
Pre-credits, sometimes called the “warning kill,” is a popular trope in the horror genre. They’re that initial kill that happens right at the start of the film, before the credits even roll (hence the name). Think Drew Barrymore in Scream or the older sister in Halloween.
In The Faculty, the pre-credits show how the school’s faculty initially gets infected with the alien parasite. What takes place is a superbly executed scene involving Bebe Neuwirth, Piper Laurie, and Robert Patrick. By the time the film’s title even appears on-screen, you’re already hooked.
4 It’s a Fresh Remake
Throughout the years, The Puppet Masters has been retold through film countless times. Starting with Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956, followed by The Brain Eaters (1958), then a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1978, Body Snatchers (1993), The Puppet Masters (1994), and The Invasion (2007) just to name a few.
The Faculty‘s strength is that it isn’t just a tired old remake of a story that’s been beaten to death. With interesting characters, dynamic sub-plots, and a heavy dose of the ’90s, the film strongly stands on its own.
3 It’s Self-Reflective
Another strength of The Faculty is that the movie is highly self-reflective, making numerous references to past incarnations of the tale. This was also a calling card of Kevin Williamson. Many of his ’90s films were highly self-reflective and “meta.” There’s a famous line from Scream where Sidney yells, “You’ve seen one too many movies!” making an obvious gag about the fact that Scream is a horror movie about teenagers who watched too many horror movies and went crazy. That same kind of smart self-awareness continues in The Faculty, and the film is all the better for it.
2 That 90’s Soundtrack
Making the movie even better was its awesome soundtrack. Right after the opening credits, “The Kid’s Aren’t Alright” by The Offspring blasts you straight into the moment when the film came out, invoking the zeitgeist of the ’90s. The soundtrack also includes Creed, Soul Asylum, Garbage, Oasis, Shawn Mullins, and Sheryl Crow. It’s a true whos-who of 90’s music.
1 It’s Unique
The Faculty‘s greatest weakness is also its greatest strength. By combining elements of science fiction, thriller, and teen slasher films, complete with smart humor and zany antics it made it hard to categorize this movie. Is The Faculty horror? Or is it SciFi? Does this count as an alien movie? Or a monster movie? Or a slasher movie? It’s inability to be just one thing probably contributed to its lack of financial success compared to all the other movies Kevin Williamson made.
But that diverse, untamed quality in this film is also why it’s lasted throughout the years, and remains a great watch. It’s unique, it’s scary, it’s smart, it’s fun, and it’s by far the best ’90s horror movies ever.
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