Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.
1998's The Faculty was basically a teenage version of The Body Snatchers. It was a science fiction horror film, which seemed to be a kinda thing of that 80s-90s time period. Before it, we had Ghostbusters (science fiction horror plus comedy), Alien, The Fly, and Jurassic Park, all films that I love. So no wonder I loved this one too.
The movie is about parasitic aliens attempting to take over Earth by "sneaking in the backdoor" of a high school. This seems ridiculous at a glance, but it's actually a pretty strategic thing to do, as school teachers and highschoolers are the last people anyone would ever listen to.
I recently decided to rewatch the film, and I realized something I never had twenty years before . . . The aliens weren't evil.
I know it sounds crazy, but just hear me out. The synopsis of this movie basically boils down to some stoned teenagers killing a peaceful alien who wished to bring world peace to Earth!
Here is why.
The Aliens Made Everyone Better
Everyone who became infected by the aliens became a better person for it. (Yes, the aliens killed one teacher, but it was an accident. They didn't mean for her to die.)
Before he's infected, the coach (Robert Patrick) is an asshole who emotionally abuses his students. After he's infected, he's a kind, thoughtful man who wishes to encourage his students to pursue their interests and just have fun playing football to the best of their ability. As a result of this, the football team gets better.
The principal (Bebe Neuwirth) insists on devoting funds to the football team alone, which screws over the other activities in the school. The other teachers hate and resent her for it, to the point that they make her "turning" quite brutal in the opening of the film. After she is infected, she cares about all the students, not just some of them. She also dresses better, as does the Drama teacher (Piper Laurie).
The history teacher, Mr. Tate (Daniel von Bargen), has an attitude of "Whatever, man" but suddenly wants to nurture young minds after being infected.
The English teacher, Ms. Burke (Famke Janassen), is a shy nerd who allows students like Zeke (Josh Hartnett) to walk all over her. Once infected, she is beautiful, fierce, and doesn't take shit from anyone.
Nurse Rosa, who has a cold for the first half of the film, is instantly healed of sickness when infected.
Students who are infected also become better people: a couple who is constantly seen to argue and abuse each other become loving and emotionally healthy, while the school jocks stop bullying people.
Delilah (Jordana Brewster), the head cheerleader, is a total bitch who treats her boyfriend, Stan (Shawn Hatosy), like crap. Once infected, she continues pretending to be mean in order to hide among the main cast, but you can see how she's changed in small glimpses. When the main character, Casey (Elijah Wood) is sad, she is shown to be genuinely concerned, and instead of running and leaving everyone behind to save herself (as she did in the first half of the film), she sticks it out with the main characters and tries to help them.
It's stated later in the film by the queen alien herself that her children don't change people. Instead, they help people be the best they can be. No pain. No fear. No war. No racism. No sexism. No self-help books.
What exactly is the problem here?
The Alien Queen Was Just Trying to Survive
When it's discovered that Zeke's drugs can kill the aliens, the characters get high to prove they aren't infected. They then continue to do this for the rest of the film.
In the scene in question, they start accusing each other of being aliens, and one of them gets in Marybeth's (Laura Harris) face and accuses of her being one. This is a very character defining moment for her, because she seems to be genuinely sad and hurt when she answers the accusations with, "It's not my fault."
Toward the end of the film, after she has revealed herself to be the alien queen, she further explains that her planet was drying up and that she -- an aquatic based creature who apparently flew spaceships -- had to leave and find another way to survive.
Surviving meant invading Earth. But instead of landing in a big spacecraft and shooting people up like Mars Attacks!, she . . . improves their lives with subtle mind control. That's not so bad, right?
I mean, what bad thing really happened? One person got killed and some people lost freewill. Isn't that a small price to pay in exchange for world peace and an end to racism, sexism, and all isms?
Surviving for the alien queen would mean casualties, but "Marybeth" was willing to take that chance. It's the entire reason why she and the character Zeke were drawn to each other. They are both portrayed as highly intelligent loners willing to do whatever it takes to survive.
In the scene where the characters think the principal is the queen alien, it is Zeke who has the courage to step up and shoot her in the head (after Casey and the other characters hesitate, second-guess, and freak out).
The alien queen is drawn to Stokely for a similar reason.
When it is revealed that Delilah is infected and Casey hestiates (once again) to shoot someone, it is Stokely who snatches the gun and fires at Delilah several times, chasing her from the house.
You could argue that Stokely just hated Delilah, though.
(Also, she reads Heinlein. Yet another point against her.)
In the end, what's the difference between Stokely, Zeke, and "Marybeth?" The three of them are willing to kill to survive and are almost casual about it.
The only one really capable of taking the moral highground is Stokely. The alien queen is doing something terrible by robbing people of their freewill, I know. And Zeke takes advantage of the lonely and depressed to sell drugs that will "make them happy," yet something else he has in common with "Marybeth." But while Zeke's drugs offer an empty promise of hope, "Marybeth" actually made people's lives better.
The Ending Makes No Sense
"Killing the queen kills them all!" is a very Star Trek, tropey, plot contrivance, but that's not what I'm talking about here.
The ending made no sense in how everyone seemed to benefit from the alien queen's help and yet applauded Casey as some kind of hero for killing her. What? Why? He took away their chance at self-fulfillment and world peace!
We can see in the ending how everyone has personally benefited and grown as people from the experience: the coach has stopped being an ass; Stan is now dating Stokely and isn't afraid to say "no" to peer pressure; Casey is popular and dating Delilah; and Zeke has not only stopped being a jerk to Ms. Burke but has also joined the football team.
The characters improved their lives through their own choices and learning experiences. Yes, that's the way it should be. But none them would have arrived at that conclusion without the help of the alien queen. That's the entire point.
Maybe I'm being cynical. Maybe I should have some faith in humanity. But given the long history of hatred and violence humanity has, it would be damn-near insane to believe we could achieve anything resembling world peace on our own.
Now with the alien queen gone . . .
I guess we'll never know.
© 2018 Lee