The football coach (Robert Patrick) at an Ohio High School is having a bad day, not least because he thinks that his team are slacking, especially the captain, Stan (Shawn Hatosy). Stan is none too happy with this reaction, but walks away, leaving the coach alone - but not quite, for someone walks up to him after he has suffered a tantrum... That night, the headmistress (Bebe Neuwirth) is turning down the teachers' applications for more funding, and as they head for home she is left behind to lock up the school. However, the coach is still around, and there's something different about him...
Not that the untrained eye would notice, but there's something very odd happening in this educational establishment. The trained eye belongs to someone who has seen Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and John Carpenter's The Thing, and maybe even has read Robert A. Heinlein's novel The Puppet Masters as well, for The Faculty unashamedly treads familiar ground, so much so that it has to name the works that inspired it in the dialogue. Most people know the premise of those stories, and it would appear odd if none of the characters here had even heard of them.
So by and large this is screenwriter Kevin Wiliamson's science fiction update of a renowned genre staple in the same way that his script for Scream rehashed and revived the slasher movie. The Faculty did not have a comparable impact, but it did pick up a number of fans who responded to director Robert Rodriguez's witty handling and the intelligent dialogue and characterisation. It was well known how much a fan of eighties teen movies Williamson was, so it's no surprise that this was very much a tribute to John Hughes' The Breakfast Club, only this was better because Hughes made the foolish decision not to include any alien parasites in his film.
Here, no such errors were made, so we can enjoy the steady build up of tension as the plot pits kids against adults, then goes further to pare away the protagonists' allies until there are hardly any good guys, the unafflicted, left. Our main heroes are the six students who cotton onto the strange events going on, that is, that the teachers are being taken over, which is most apparent by the way they are attracted to water: they drink gallons of the stuff so as not to dehydrate. When bullied nerd Casey (Elijah Wood) finds a strange little pod on the football field, he takes it to the science teacher (Jon Stewart) to find that it springs to life when wet.
And takes a bite out of the teacher, too. From then on things grow pleasingly paranoid as Casey gathers his troops around him, from another outsider, Stokes (Clea DuVall), who handily knows her sci-fi, to bitchy popular girl Delilah (Jordana Brewster). Stan is in there too, as are Southern new girl Marybeth (Laura Harris) and local drug dealer - he makes his own product - Zeke (Josh Hartnett). As is the way with such films, they realise what is up and accept the reality of their dilemma pretty quickly with the minimum of cries of "bullshit!", and soon they discover the tide of extraterrestrial takeovers is lapping at their feet. Well presented without being groundbreaking, indeed it's pretty slavish in regard to its influences, the starry cast sell the outlandish story well, making The Faculty a highly polished item of Hollywood thrills. Music by Marco Beltrami.