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SYFY WIRE Kevin Williamson

The Faculty: Revisiting the '90s Pulp-Horror Cult Classic

Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Williamson took us on a wild ride 25 years ago.

By Matthew Jackson

In 1998, Kevin Williamson was about as hot as any screenwriter could get. He'd had the horror hit of the decade with Scream, he delivered I Know What You Did Last Summer, and he even got to do rewrites on Halloween movie. Throw in a little show called Dawson's Creek, and you've got an awe-inspiring run of pop culture impact. 

It makes sense, then, that Williamson was the guy brought in to do rewrites on what would become The Faculty, a script originally written by David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel. Williamson's job was to update the script and deliver teenage characters that audiences could relate to, and he eventually worked it through so thoroughly that he got the screenplay credit on the project, while the original writers ended up with a story credit. With Williamson's point-of-view firmly in place, producers brought in Robert Rodriguez –– no stranger to mixing and maxing genre sensibilities, much like Williamson –– to direct the film, and what we got was... well, a moderate box office success that couldn't quite do for sci-fi-horror what Scream did for slashers. 

RELATED: Everything You Didn't Know About The Faculty

Still, The Faculty had a life of its own, and 25 years later it's become a cult classic of the period, a film revered for its stylistic blending and its ensemble cast of stars like Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, and Clea DuVall. These days the film, now streaming on Peacock for all your Halloween needs, is considered one of the best this particular pop culture period has to offer in terms of horror fun, so how did we get here? What made The Faculty hold up so well, despite some very 1998 slang, wardrobe, and visual effects? Let's take a closer look.

Why Now Is a Great Time to Revisit The Faculty, Now Streaming on Peacock

Teenage Aliens in The Faculty

There's a reason Williamson became the go-to guy for teen stories in the late 1990s, and it's not just because he knew how to shower high schoolers in blood and guts. As Dawson's Creek proved, Williamson just got the teenage mindset of the period, the combination of yearning and cynicism that came with the 1990s. Thanks to Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, he'd established himself as a kind of horror John Hughes, a guy who could get to the core of teenage existence while peppering in loads of fun elements for the audience. 

With The Faculty, Williamson did it again, this time focusing on a somewhat darker element of teenage existence. His characters in this film, from nerdy Casey to deliberate outsider Stokely, are all walking through their own version of an alien landscape, a world they don't quite understand yet can't stop exploring, even if they'd like to. Yes, the obvious hook of The Faculty is the idea that the teachers are alien creatures out to suck all the unique personality out of each and every student, but Williamson's script can't help but reach for something more. All the obvious sci-fi-horror metaphors are there, but the one Williamson seems most interested in is not that the adults are aliens, but that the kids are. They're all lost in some way or another, stranded on a hostile planet, and their only hope seems to be banding together, finding a way through the chaos and carnage despite their alienation. It's a potent idea, and while The Faculty is never quite as elegant in its expression as, say, Scream, it works.

Sci-fi Carnage in The Faculty

Casey Connor (Elijah Wood) and classmates watch a creature swim in a fish tank.

For Rodriguez's part, capturing the teen angst and alienation of Williamson's script was key, but so was balancing those emotions out with a satisfyingly over-the-top sci-fi story. Like ScreamThe Faculty is a film that wears its influences on its sleeve, from the old-school thrillers of Invasion of the Body Snatchers to the paranoia of The Thing, and Rodriguez came prepared for that kind of remix. 

For all its 1998 slang and production design, The Faculty remains thoroughly pulpy throughout, almost to the point of being a throwback. Rodriguez knows exactly the kind of movie he's shooting, and delivers on it with scenes that mirror previous sci-fi classics (the kids even get to do a Thing-like alien test) and dive headlong into the creature-feature of it all. Yes, the visual effects are a bit dated, and sometimes the tone is all over the place, but there's a clear enthusiasm coming through in the way Rodriguez puts it all together. He's having a blast with all the chaos and carnage, even doing an homage to The Thing's severed head gag, and that kind of joy shines through. 

So, while The Faculty remains a bit of a mess 25 years after its release, it still stands out as the kind of film that knows exactly what it is, isn't afraid to luxuriate in the conventions of its setup, and showcases its young cast to great effect. In other words, it's a blast, and it's the perfect horror film to watch with friends this October.

The Faculty is now streaming on Peacock.