[Screen It]


(1998) (Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett) (R)

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Sci-fi: A group of high school students comes to the realization that their teachers are actually aliens from another planet who are determined to conquer their small town.
The students of Herrington High are just like others anywhere across the nation. Encompassing the typical cross-section of adolescents, they're too preoccupied in their own matters to realize that their school isn't up to par or that their teachers don't always act quite human.

Among them is Delilah (JORDANA BREWSTER), the snobbish head cheerleader and school paper editor; Stokely (CLEA DUVALL), the dressed-in-black loner; Marybeth (LAURA HARRIS), the friendly new girl in school; Zeke (JOSH HARTNETT), the local drug dealer who's smarter than he appears; football studs Stan (SHAWN HATOSY) and Gabe (USHER RAYMOND), and finally typical kid Casey (ELIJAH WOOD) on whom everyone picks.

While hard-nosed football coach Dick Willis (ROBERT PATRICK) draws most of the school's funds, much to the dismay of Principal Drake (BEBE NEUWIRTH), the icily pragmatic administrator, the other staff, including biology teacher Mr. Furlong (JON STEWART), Mrs. Olson (PIPER LAURIE), the drama teacher, Miss Burke (FAMKE JANSSEN), the young and tentative English teacher, Mr. Tate (DANIEL VON BARGEN), the history teacher who's given up and sickly school Nurse Harper (SALMA HAYEK), all try to make do with what they have.

When not being taunted by the school bullies, Casey, along with Delilah, witness a horrific act that proves something odd is going on at their school. Soon the other students arrive at the same conclusion as they realize that aliens have taken over the bodies of most of the faculty and are now rounding up the rest of the student body for a similar fate.

With no one believing their story, including Casey's dad (CHRISTOPHER McDONALD), and the number of non-aliens in their town dwindling, the small group of students race against time trying to figure out how to stop the aliens.

The blend of sci-fi and horror may draw in some teens, but many of them seem to be shying away from the horror genre as of recently.
For violence/gore, strong language, drug use and some nudity.
  • ELIJAH WOOD plays the story's hero, a kid who's picked on most of the time and who cusses a few times under duress.
  • JOSH HARTNETT plays the smarter than he looks drug dealer who sells his own concoction of homemade drugs (mostly made from caffeine pills) to other students. He also has something of a cocky, slacker attitude.
  • JORDANA BREWSTER plays the snobby and bitchy head cheerleader and newspaper editor.
  • CLEA DuVALL plays the loner who's always clad in black.
  • LAURA HARRIS plays the chirpy new girl in school.
  • SHAWN HATOSY plays the misunderstood football jock who wants to excel at academics instead of athletics.
  • All of the adults, including ROBERT PATRICK as the hard-nosed football coach and FAMKE JANSSEN as the mousy English teacher all play stereotypical teachers and staff who become aliens.


    OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
    Using the best Rod "The Twilight Zone" Serling impression that you can muster in your head, entertain the following: "Imagine if you will, a Hollywood movie that has pilfered elements from other successful films, put its own unique spin on them, and then turned around and tried to sell it to audiences as if it were new. If cinematically unaware, moviegoers won't know that they've unfortunately stumbled into...The Ripoff Zone."

    Yes, if you can imagine the resulting offspring of a pairing of "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Breakfast Club" you'd come pretty close to getting this film. Although director Robert Rodriguez ("From Dusk Till Dawn," "Desperado") and writer Kevin Williamson (the "Scream" films, "I Know What You Did Last Summer") give the combo material a fresh and glossy coating, and add a few spins to keep the audience on their toes, this is just more of the same old, same old.

    From the stereotypical students (one could easily interchange these characters with the ones from John Hughes 1985 comedy, "The Breakfast Club," without much of a difference) to the aliens have taken over their bodies plot (seen in the 1956 and 1978 versions of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and other films such as "The Puppet Masters"), everything that occurs here is simply a retreading of material we've already seen.

    In fact, it's quite sad when characters (and filmmakers) have to reference other films (particularly ones with nearly the same plot) to figure out how to save themselves (or the characters they've created). While such cinematic references worked in "Scream," they seem more contrived here even when the film is recreating scenes from such other sci-fi flicks like "Invasion" and "The Thing."

    That said, for those not familiar with the previous installments of those "Invasion" films, the proceedings here may be entertaining. The film does pick up steam as it draws toward its predictable and mildly suspenseful finale and does exhibit a bit of campy fun. Nonetheless, it's highly unlikely that the movie will play beyond the older teen and college audience for whom it's so obviously aimed. Not surprisingly, it should head for the video stores faster than most of the cast here become "alienated."

    Speaking of such, the film's actors and actresses deliver standard-issue performances for this sort of genre, but not much more. With a bevy of stereotypical high school student parts -- the picked on normal kid, the cheerleader snob, the withdrawn loner, the misunderstood jock, and the smarter than he looks drug dealer -- there's obviously only so much the cast can do with their characters. In addition and regarding their dialogue, horror scribe Williamson -- who's demonstrated a penchant for wit in his past scripts -- leaves these performers high and dry for the most part.

    Josh Hartnett, who was rather flat in "Halloween: H20," gets the best part as the Matt "Good Will Hunting" Damon-like character (the brilliant, but misguided young man). Elijah Wood ("The Ice Storm"), while appropriately playing his paranoia inspired character, was seemingly cast because of his expertise at delivering that wide-eyed, dumbfounded look. Meanwhile, the rest of the relatively unknown cast can't do much with their stereotyped characters.

    On the "grownup" side, the cast is pretty much reduced to playing similarly constructed school staff (the "in your face" coach, the dowdy drama teacher, the cool biology teacher, etc...) who then get to demonstrate their acting prowess by playing zombie-like characters.

    Robert Patrick, who effectively played Schwarzenegger's intense nemesis in "Terminator 2" and Bebe Neuwirth, who inhabited a similarly cold character as Lilith on TV's "Cheers," are the best of the bunch, but only because they've had the most experience playing those types of parts. Otherwise, performers such as Salma Hayek ("Desperado"), Famke Janssen ("Goldeneye") and particularly comedian Jon Stewart (who makes his big screen debut) are mostly wasted in their small roles.

    Director Rodriguez, who showed such entertaining visual flair in his previous efforts, unfortunately delivers a relatively flat picture here, mostly relying on computer special effects to enliven the proceedings. While some of them are "fun" -- if you're into creepy, crawly, and occasionally quite big critters -- they're not particularly outstanding, although one scene involving a rather lively and detached head really had the audience howling in glee.

    Fortunately for the film -- and the audience -- this is when the picture finally picks up the pace and quickly zips along to its conclusion. Nonetheless, while it will probably please its target audience, it is otherwise completely -- and apparently purposefully -- derivative of other works and thus loses many points for being bereft of much originality.

    Lacking the efforts of Williamson's previous wit and clever setup (high school as a literal hell and zombies as anti-conformity symbolism are too easy), and missing Rodriguez's aggressive visual flair, the film comes off as mildly entertaining, somewhat suspenseful, but clearly earmarked for a better life once on video. We give "The Faculty" a 3.5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this R-rated film. Profanity is extreme with more than 50 "f" words and a wide and numerous assortment of other words and colorful phrases. Violence is also extreme with several people being killed, often with bloody and otherwise gory results (and sci-fi related goo and gore).

    As such and considering the plot, there are many scenes that may be scary or unsettling to some viewers, but particularly younger kids (although this is dependant on their level of maturity and tolerance for such material). Drug use is heavy due to a student selling a homemade concoction of drugs (mostly consisting of caffeine pills) and one scene where several students snort these drugs (to prove whether they're aliens or not) and consequently get "high."

    Some sexually related comments are made, and we also see a completely nude woman in several scenes (from a distance or in dark shadows that mostly obscure more explicit nudity). Since many kids will probably want to see this film, we suggest that you take a closer look at what's been listed should you still be concerned about its appropriateness for anyone in your home.

  • Zeke sells his own homemade concoction of drugs (that is called "scat" and is concealed in what looks like writing pens) to other students. We later learn that this is a combination of caffeine pills and other unspecified materials.
  • We see Mr. Tate pour some liquor from a flask into his coffee (and he later appears just a bit intoxicated).
  • Responding to their belief that Casey's on drugs, his parents ransacks his room looking for them.
  • To test whether or not they're already aliens, a small group of students snort Zeke's homemade drugs from the tips of writing pens. Moments later, many of them are quite high and laughing quite a bit.
  • Zeke makes Casey snort some more of the drug as yet another test.
  • A woman's hand is bloody after a pencil's been driven through it.
  • A man's face is quite bloody after he's been scraped by a set of keys.
  • We briefly see some blood as a person is stabbed to death.
  • Casey's nose is just a bit bloody after somebody elbows him there.
  • Two of Mr. Furlong's gloved fingers are bloody after being bitten by a small creature.
  • We see an older woman whose skin is apparently dissolving/deteriorating. As Stan tries to comfort her, he accidently pulls away a huge clump of her hair and scalp, that leaves a gooey and bloody trail back to her head.
  • A man's face starts to boil and bubble as little creatures underneath the skin come to life.
  • A woman's head is very bloody after some sort of probe is jammed into her ear.
  • Two students find a dead and deteriorated body in a closet.
  • A man's fingers are cut off (and land on the floor where they start moving on their own) and we then see a writing pen jammed into that man's eye (which causes him to start foaming).
  • We see a bloody and dissected mouse, as well as the small alien larvae that Zeke pulls from it and then cuts open.
  • We see some sort of creatures rolling and slithering around under a student's skin.
  • We see a small bullet wound in a person's head, and then see a great deal of blood pouring out onto the floor around the body.
  • A person's body dissolves into a gooey mess.
  • We see tentacles wriggling from a person's face, and other such appendages from another alien.
  • Zeke's head is bloody after wrecking his car.
  • We see a person's head slithering along on octopus like tentacles, as well as the headless body searching for that head.
  • A person is grabbed by an alien monster and their head crashes onto the floor around a swimming pool, causing a lot of blood to pour out (which we also see wafting through the pool water).
  • We see another alien dissolve away.
  • We see little larvae crawl into and under a person's facial skin.
  • Obviously the aliens have both for wanting to take over everyone's bodies.
  • The football coach is aggressively hard-nosed toward his players.
  • Students violently pick on Casey just to be mean.
  • Delilah has a stuck-up, snobby attitude.
  • We learn that Zeke steals materials from the school's science lab.
  • Scene listed under "Violence" may also be tense or scary to some viewers (especially younger kids -- but as usual, all of that's dependant on their level of maturity and tolerance for such material). In addition, to prevent giving everything away, some of the identities will be concealed in the following.
  • The images of the aliens (in their many forms) may be quite unsettling and scary for younger viewers.
  • After having a pencil run completely through her hand, a woman tries to escape her attacker who slowly pursues her through the school hallways that lead to locked doors (a several minute scene).
  • Mr. Furlong puts a small creature into an aquarium where it comes to life, grows, and then bites his hand.
  • As Stan takes a shower, we see someone (or something) approaching him (it turns out to be a rapidly dissolving woman).
  • A man grabs a woman, his face starts to boil and bubble, and he pins her to a couch and then rams some sort of probe from his body into her ear, apparently killing her. As this happens, two students hide in a closet with a dead body and that man then comes looking for them.
  • We see a small creature grab a mouse using its tentacles.
  • While testing each other to see if one of them is already an alien, students hold a handgun on each other.
  • Students prepare to shoot a faculty member that they believe, but aren't positively sure, is an alien.
  • A student finds himself in a car with an alien that's trying to get him.
  • We see a person's head slithering along on octopus like tentacles, as well as the headless body searching for that head.
  • The entire ending sequence, where the students try to find the "head" alien and are chased and attacked by others, may be tense to some viewers.
  • Pencil/Scissors: Used to wound and then kill a woman.
  • Handgun: Aimed at other students and used to shoot a woman in the head.
  • Phrases: "Flogging the bishop" (masturbation), "Muff diving" (lesbian oral sex), "D*ckless," "T*t bag," "Limp ass," "Bitch" (said several times), "Take a piss," "Jerk," "Slut," "Blow me," "Kick our ass," "Piss wad," "Anal probe," "That must really blow," "Kissing my ass," "Pissed," "Eat me," "Pathetic little runt," "You sick little bastard,""Dingus," "Nuts" (crazy), "Hard ass," "Whore" and "Shut up."
  • Zeke recklessly (and quickly) drives and parks in the school parking lot. He also sells his own homemade drug concoction to other students, and we briefly see him delivering fake I.D.s to other students.
  • Students ram Casey, crotch first, into a flagpole.
  • We see a female student with a decorative chain that connects her pierced nose and ear.
  • Coach Willis surprises Principal Drake.
  • A presumably dead person suddenly stands up.
  • A student surprises others at a door.
  • A teacher surprises a student.
  • A person suddenly slams into a fence.
  • A heavy amount of suspenseful, scary and generally ominous music occurs throughout the movie.
  • A song contained the word damn (and there may have been more).
  • At least 56 "f" words, 21 "s" words, 3 slang terms each for male ("pr*ck" and "d*ck") and female ("p*ssy") genitals, 1 slang term for breasts ("t*t"), 8 asses (2 used with "hole"), 5 hells, 3 damns, 1 S.O.B., and 6 uses of "Jesus," 4 of "G-damn," 2 of "Jesus Christ" and 1 use each of "God" and "Christ" as exclamations.
  • Zeke jokingly tells his English teacher that Robinson Crusoe's greatest fear was being stuck on an island with nothing but calluses (apparently referring to masturbation).
  • Delilah refers to Stokely as a lesbian (which she denies, but Marybeth thinks would be cool) and later comments on her "muff diving" (lesbian oral sex).
  • Zeke sells some students tapes of Neve Campbell and Jennifer Love Hewitt (we don't see them playing). They then ask if those women are naked and Zeke responds, "Full frontal."
  • Trying to get Miss Burke to loosen up, Zeke jokingly offers her some condoms that he says are "magnum sized" and cherry flavored. She declines.
  • Casey's mother comments on his pornography under his mattress and his dad then removes two such magazines (we don't see any of their contents). His dad then says that there will be "no more flogging the bishop" (masturbating).
  • From a distance we see a nude woman swimming in a pool and then see her bare butt (again from a distance) as she gets out of the pool. Moments later, we again see her nude (up closer, but shadows mostly conceal her nudity, although glimpses of her shadowed bare breasts can be seen from a frontal view, her bare butt is seen, and a side view shows the side of her bare butt).
  • Zeke smokes several times, Mr. Tate smokes once, some other students smoke, and Stokely has some cigarettes with her, but doesn't smoke.
  • Casey's parents ground him after he acts paranoid.
  • We briefly hear that Marybeth's parents are both dead.
  • That teachers aren't aliens and shouldn't be shot and/or have drug-laced pens jammed into their bodies to test them.
  • To prevent giving everything away, some of the identities will be concealed in the following.
  • Coach Willis violently overturns a bench on the football field sideline.
  • A man drives a pencil completely through a woman's hand. She in turn scrapes his face with her keys. Consequently, both are quite bloody. He then pursues her through the school, during which she hits him again.
  • A woman stabs another woman to death with a pair of scissors.
  • Another student elbows Casey in the face.
  • We briefly see two women fighting after a car accident.
  • Students ram Casey, crotch first, into a flagpole.
  • A female student smacks a male student.
  • A man grabs a woman, his face starts to boil and bubble, and he pins her to a couch and then rams some sort of probe from his body into her ear, apparently killing her. That man then hears two students hiding in a closet and as he approaches them, one of the students jams him with a pole and escapes.
  • A female student slaps a male student after pushing him around.
  • A teacher throws or knocks down several students. A student then yanks off the long and sharp blade from a paper cutter and cuts off the teacher's fingers with a swipe of that blade (and they start slithering across the floor). Another then jams one of Zeke's drug-filled pens into the teacher's eye (which eventually kills him).
  • We hear Zeke break the neck of his lab mouse (to give it an autopsy looking for aliens).
  • A student shoots at another student (who's just wrecked Zeke's lab after being discovered as an alien).
  • A student shoots a faculty member point blank in the head (believing that person to be an alien).
  • Zeke purposefully wrecks his car to kill an alien.
  • A student punches another student.
  • A person is grabbed by an alien monster and their head crashes onto the floor around a swimming pool, causing a lot of blood to pour out.
  • Another alien is killed.

  • Reviewed December 23, 1998 / Posted on December 25, 1998

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