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While THE FACULTY ($30) comes from writer Kevin Williamson and director Robert Rodriguez, this film doesn't take audiences to the dizzying heights of either SCREAM or DESPERADO. Instead, THE FACULTY delivers a whole lot of fun and solid sci-fi chills ala INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Sure, THE FACULTY targets the same teen audience that helped to make SCREAM a huge commercial hit, but thanks to Williamson clever screenplay, the film remains a cut above everything else geared to the youth market. The plot of THE FACULTY follows a group of typical students (at various levels of the high school social hierarchy), as they become aware that something strange is happening at their school. First the teachers start acting weirder than normal, and then the same thing begins happening to the student body. The final piece of the puzzle comes after one student discovers an unusual animal on the high school playing field. What the school biology teacher thinks to be a previously undiscovered species, is in reality an alien parasite that takes control of its human host. As the aliens infect the school (and the rest of the town), the job of stopping an all out invasion falls to the remaining unaffected students.

Director Robert Rodriguez effectively stages all of the action with his usual bravado; the camera work is first rate and his rhythmic editing completes the package. While THE FACULTY isn’t the most original science fiction ever made, the story succeeds because Williamson knows the science fiction genre as well as he knows horror. Williamson places a just the right number of self-referential jabs into the screenplay to make it fun for genre fans. There are enough twists in the screenplay and keep the tension level up, plus Williamson provides humor at all the right moments. Another reason THE FACULTY succeeds is because of its well-written characters that are brought to life by a first rate cast. Instead of letting the teachers become throwaway characters, THE FACULTY scores high marks for making its faculty as interesting as the teen heroes. Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, Daniel von Bargen, Jon Stewart and Salma Hayek all deliver performances that are creepy-cool and fun. With the "heroic" roles going to Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Shawn Hatosy and Elijah Wood, the student body is almost as much fun as the faculty.

Dimension Home Video has done a relatively good job transcribing THE FACULTY to DVD. Had this DVD included the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions, it probably would have rated as excellent. THE FACULTY is presented wide screen only and the Letterboxed transfer properly frames the film at 1.85:1. For playback on a 4:3 monitor, THE FACULTY delivers superb image quality. Sharpness and detail are just what you would expect from a new movie. Blacks are true black and the image offers terrific shadow detail. Colors reproduce with vivid hues and natural looking flesh tones. Neither chroma noise or digital compression artifacts offered much evidence of their presence on this DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a terrific action/sci-fi movie mix that is big and loud. Effects leap out at the viewer, making the shocks even more effective, plus the track has a broad forward soundstage that seamlessly wraps around into the surround channels. Dialogue reproduction is very clean and the bass provides some good solid thumps and explosions. Subtitles are available in English.

The simplistic interactive menus provide the standard scene selection feature, as well as access to a theatrical trailer.

I really liked THE FACULTY, however I look on the DVD as something of a missed opportunity. This DVD is too bare bones for its own good. At the minimum, this DVD should have included a 16:9 anamorphic enhanced presentation, plus a running commentary with both Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Williamson. Both men have recorded great commentaries in the past and they should have been brought together to provide one for this DVD.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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