Herrington High has a unique way of solving their budget deficit, turning all of their faculty into mindless alien drones who perform what is asked of them on a whim. That’s clever.
Clever is also this script, even if it’s impossible to ignore that screeplay writer Kevin Williamson is trying his darndest to give the Scream concept another go. Part of The Faculty’s problem is that it can’t decide whether it’s a smart take on the body snatchers alien concept, or a tonally shifting creature feature.
There’s enough to The Faculty to produce a few smirks, and few zingers. Herrington High is acknowledged as a generic mold of late ’90s high school. A young Elijah Wood is penned as, “The geeky Stephen King kid” by his classmate. But, it bounces those archetypes off one another. The jock lands the goth, the geek guns for the hottie, and the drug dealing, repeating senior lands the nice girl from out of town.
Little time is wasted as the film pushes itself into the thick of it, the first chase mere minutes in after an expletive-loaded football practice. From there, Robert Patrick acts as a robotic alien drone -which he excels at- infecting the remaining staff in a chase through the darkened halls. Faculty is liberal with its gore too.
What keeps interest moving is the mystique. Faculty reveals glimpses into the alien hivemind, a small creature discovered on the football field, or a murder produced for the sake of the audience as kids shudder in the closet. The film plays games, riffing John Carpenter’s The Thing adaptation, but instead of blood being an identifying catalyst in regards to who is an alien, it’s a local drug. Those instances are enough to cure the curiosity as to who – or what – the script is alluding to.
Some of the interplay will cut down on the fun, although credit where credit is due, the mix up amongst the social groups keeps things moving. A finale isn’t content with the full reveal, special effects, or explosions either. It’s obsessed with keeping the surprises snappy, and turns shocking. Maybe it’s a little too static for what it wants to be; that’s passable when you’re having this much fun.
Echo Bridge dumps this ’90s sci-fi spoof/satire/modern take onto Blu-ray with what is certainly a master composed for for the mid-2000s or so. The advent of HDTV meant slinging a bunch of films onto low resolution masters that would have been fantastic over HD cable. Here in 2012 on Blu-ray, not so much. The remnants of a bygone era begin immediately as the film opens on a football practice, the edge enhancement hardly coy about its influence on the image. When it sees an opening to become visible, it does. Whether that becomes an darkened outline or a bright, hard to miss one is scene dependent.
Grain is kept at bay by sometimes copious amounts of noise reduction, failing the image in terms fidelity. Even though Echo Bridge is notorious for crummy bitrates, Faculty is an exception. The murkiness, plastic faces, and clay-like hair are purely on the source master. What grain is present is turned into a mass of moving blobs by the manipulation. The encode is just trying to make it somewhat presentable.
Minor specks make up the bulk of the source damage, the print (when this master was struck at least) kept clean and free of any major concerns. Faculty isn’t bolstered with any outstanding primaries. If anything, the flesh tones are outright pale and bland. Most of what is keeping this one together are consistent black levels, sucking only a minor level of shadow detail down with them.
What escapes? Some fine detail. For all of the murky shots of classrooms or other gatherings where definition goes to die, a number of close-ups will show enough improvement in resolution to feel as if you’re getting something for your money. Facial detail is impressive, even if the refinement of the best discs isn’t present. Stupid noise reduction.
Driven by a DTS-HD mix, the audio escapes any glaring fidelity or age concerns. It’s up there with any modern contained creature feature in terms of using the surrounds when called on and the subwoofer as need be. Much of The Faculty is dry dialogue or exposition, although the school grounds can put on an ambiance show.
The meat of the disc lies during the final 15-minutes, the alien creature exposed, slithering about and pounding in anger. Rain begins to douse the outdoors with some aggression in the surrounds, while an echo-infested interior will spread any sounds through the mix. Characters are tossed around into objects with a pleasing thump, and short of a football game where the soundtrack becomes too frisky, the mix carries great balance.
Extras? Ha! There’s nothing here.