Starting with the faculty of a small town Ohio high school, parasitic mind-controlling aliens start their takeover of the Earth. The story is quite neatly summed up as Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The Breakfast Club, as a group of six students from varied social strata figure out the plot and attempt to foil it.
1996's Scream brought writer Kevin Williamson a boatload of hype (for better or worse), but in my opinion this taut little number is the superior effort. Just like The Invasion brings up some of free will's sticky discussion points by having all Middle East conflict come to an abrupt halt, The Faculty brings it even closer to home by setting the action in high school, where everyone can remember that constant, visceral need: fit in or die.
I probably like this movie more than anyone I know. I'll admit it's the kind of movie that loudly champions certain ideas about How Things Are using dialogue you'd never hear in the real world: "The established pecking order is head cheerleader dates star quarterback, not academic wannabe." Sure, the world is like that, but you don't hear anybody involved actually admit it with such clarity. For me, however, real dialogue is overrated; if you like your entertainment cooked that way, there's plenty of tedious reality TV. (And I wonder, did the people in the seats watching first-run Shakespeare actually converse like the actors on stage?) Watching TF this year I pretty much dug every speech applying alien takeover to the complex jock/nerd/geek/bitch hallway politics. They only chatter I didn't like was the aside about science fiction literature as a softening-up mechanism for the inevitable takeover -- it was way too Screamy. As far as I'm concerned, the self-referential train left a long time ago (although having a sci-fi buff in the group to help parse out the plot just makes sense).
On the plus side, you've got Robert Patrick, Bebe Neuwirth, Piper Laurie, Clea DuVall, Famke Janssen, Elijah Wood and Josh Hartnett when he was still cool. You've got a fast-moving plot, some creepy critter effects and a graphic depiction of that day all nerds know will come, when you're trapped in a school bus at night and a hoard of football players in full game gear are outside baying for your blood.
And I love that the secret weapon is caffeine. Would any extraterrestrial life form really have a chance?