“Guaranteed to Jack You Up:” How ‘The Faculty’ Became My First Teenage Obsession
I had some surprising terms and conditions set by my parents when it came to renting horror at a young age. Once it had become clear I wasn’t just growing out of it, my mom decided I could rent anything that had been made in the 1980s or beforehand, as she figured that — as she put it — “yesterday’s R is today’s PG-13.” I can kind of see the logic there, too, but it was way off. Most of the horror coming out in the late ’90s was significantly tamer than what had come before it. That meant that I had to keep anything new I saw on the down low and couldn’t just rent it on my own. Thankfully, I had an easy means for that. Friend of the family and babysitter through most of my childhood, Wanda, loved this stuff as much as I did (at the time, at least, I quickly surpassed her) and would always rent whatever new horror movie had just come out. That was how I had first seen another beloved classic of my youth, Scream.
Scream was an important childhood horror movie for several reasons. One, it had become an instant favorite and was the first franchise I really got to grow up with as it was happening. Two, it had helped me give the Friday the 13th movies another shot after feeling like the first one had lied to me by not including Jason, by insisting that he did in fact show up in the sequel. The routine with Wanda was easy. We wouldn’t rent from Ya Gotta Love It, my usual haunt and favorite video store in town. Instead, we’d go to Tom Cat as it was just a few houses down, a convenience store that also happened to rent videos. And when we went on that fateful day, I knew exactly what I wanted to rent. Still buzzing on the original, I only had eyes for Scream 2. I hadn’t seen a single preview, knew not one thing about where the story was going, but I loved Scream so much and just wanted more of it.
There, sitting on the shelf next to it, was The Faculty. I had never seen Wanda more excited to rent a movie in my life. The title and concept grabbed her immediately. She stood there in Tom Cat for several minutes, telling stories about specific teachers in high school that she and all of her friends had believed to be aliens. Now, of course, I would be excited to hear anyone talk about that stuff so passionately and hilariously, but as a kid standing there in that moment I couldn’t have cared less. I wanted to see Scream 2 so badly, nothing else mattered. Even though I knew that whatever one we didn’t pick up that day, we’d pick up the very next week. It didn’t matter. A week is an eternity when you’re a kid.
And it’s true. She overruled and rented The Faculty and we did rent Scream 2 the very next week, but on that two minute walk back to the house, I was bummed as hell. We hadn’t rented the movie I wanted and that’s all kids care about in those stubborn and selfish moments. I had absolutely no idea, of course, that that decision to not let me rent the flick that I wanted was going to kickstart a major childhood obsession. But that’s exactly what it did.
From the moment The Faculty started, I was on board as much as I had ever been on board for anything in my life. It was giving me everything I wanted and expected from Scream — thank you, Kevin Williamson — but with a refreshing sci-fi twist. What grabbed me immediately, though, was the cast of characters. There was something about the way The Faculty introduced each member of the main cast by flashing their names on the screen that made them feel important.
Even watching for the first time, I remember relating to the nerdy hero Casey because even though I had plenty of friends, I was establishing interests that were different and nerdier than my peers and was certainly starting to become a little less noticed than most of my classmates. As I got a little older, in middle school, I started to relate a bit more to quiet outcast Stokely, while all the while through secretly wished I was a bit more like rebellious genius Zeke. This whole cast immediately grabbed me and the only way I can think to describe it is, before I started watching Buffy religiously, this felt like my Scooby Gang.
I will never forget sitting there and watching The Faculty for the first time. At least a half hour before the movie even introduced the concept of the “Queen Bee” alien, Wanda was on the edge of her seat trying to guess who it could be. That was just what had made Scream so fun to watch for the first time as well, all the guessing. Wanda was the best movie buddy you could ask for, because you got to have the best disruptive audience member in the comfort of home without anyone shushing them. She would beg every character not to go up the stairs as if they could hear her.
I also remember watching for the first time and developing one of my first and strongest movie crushes ever. From the time I first saw it at the tender age of 9, I fell hard for The Faculty’s bitchy mean girl Delilah Profitt. I had no idea why at the time, other than the obvious beauty of Jordana Brewster, but looking back it absolutely was not rocket science. I was, as already stated, a squirrelly, skinny, nerdy little kid very much like Casey. This was fourth grade and, by this point, I had developed a crush on a girl much cooler and popular than myself, which would last all the way through middle school. It was pathetic. I was so smitten that it was the thing that defined me to the kids who didn’t know me. Every kid had some trait to easily sum them up when asked, somewhere between a summary and a call sign. I was the kid with the crush on Ashley.
Being the kid with the crush on Ashley meant that seeing that number one fantasy of mine play out on screen was obviously incredibly appealing to my fourth grade self, and only became more appealing as I entered middle school and the crush got more and more pathetic.
But even though I was a kid with a tendency to rent movies fairly frequently, it took me a while to revisit The Faculty. Part of that was due to circumstance, I’m sure. I technically wasn’t allowed to rent new movies at all, so renting the same one over and over again was pretty much an impossibility. I didn’t revisit it until seventh grade, when I taped it off of the Sci-Fi Channel, and that was when it finally became a full blown obsession.
Now that I was (barely) a teenager, every single little thing in The Faculty resonated that much more. I was much more of an outcast than I had been as a fourth grader now that puberty was in full swing. My jock friends had their own stuff going on and their own doubts, and the popular girl I was completely smitten with was somehow more interested in talking to me — probably because at this point the crush was just sad. I could see all the individual pieces. All we needed was an alien invasion on our middle school to bring us all closer together.
That never happened, but in waiting for it, my love of the movie grew that much more. Waiting for a sequel that would never come, I wrote my own sequel in my social studies notebook, about the characters going off to college and finding themselves at the center of a new alien invasion that involved the alien killing wonder drug in squirt gun form, self-replicating Queens, and I passed it around to all of my delighted friends. All ten pages of it felt like an epic and I was overjoyed and that absolutely ridiculous thing was not even as bad as the seventh grade obsession got.
I fell into a stretch where I began to watch the movie Every. Single. Day. It would have been one thing if I actually owned it, but I was just wearing out the notoriously censored Sci-Fi Channel version because it was as close to the real thing that I had. I had always been defined by my love of many fictional franchises, but I had never fallen into a specific movie so hard.
It had gotten particularly bad by the end of the year. Summer was on the way and my dad was getting a start on things by staying at the Smuggler’s Den Campground for weeks at a time — admittedly, this was normal behavior — and as he always did, he liked to camp in comfort. To completely defeat the purpose of camping, my dad had brought along an electrical hookup for a TV and VCR. He was so thrilled about it that he took me down to the video store and told me we could rent absolutely anything that I wanted. And that, admittedly, sparked a war inside me.
That was the dream to hear a parent say. It meany anything. I could have nabbed any gory title I had spent years fantasizing about getting my hands on. The trouble was that the only movie I could even think about was The Faculty. It sparked a war in my heart because I knew that the opportunity for one of my parents to let me rent whatever I wanted would only come around once in a lifetime. But instead, I walked out of that video store with a movie I had already seen once that day. It was, however, a breath of fresh air to at least be watching The Faculty in its full uncensored form without having to fast forward through commercial breaks. Even though I should have rented anything else, watching that movie (which, to hide my embarrassment, I had pretended to have never seen before) in a tent in the woods with my dad was actually a pretty great experience.
After that night, I stopped watching The Faculty every single day, I moved onto other teenage obsessions — all of them still outlandishly nerdy and often idiotic — but the movie never left my heart. Even though every single frame is long-since burned into my memory, I love it as much as I ever have.