The teen-slasher flick is quickly running out of steam since Scream brought it back to life, but the mad doctor behind the rebirth is still plugging away regardless. Kevin Williamson made lots of fans and money by cleverly mocking the ridiculous conventions of the genre while effectively utilizing them at the same time, but that's a well you can prime only so many times. Now, as writer of The Faculty, Williamson has pretty much relegated himself to wallowing in the conventions. In his case, that's not an awful turn; he has enough knowingness about the genre to make its tired repetitiveness fun in fits and starts, and this time he has enough smarts to pilfer a foolproof suspense-horror premise. It's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in high school of course, with aliens quickly and quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) taking over the bodies of teachers and students while a small band of teen heroes tries to fight the growing swarm. It's an idea that delivers an almost automatic sense of exhilarating paranoid fun-it's good versus evil in a situation where evil looks no different than good; your group of protagonists must try to figure out who around them are slimy killer aliens under the skin, while also never being sure that all the members of their own alien-fighting group are actually who they appear to be.

For a while, it seems as if Williamson and director Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, From Dusk Till Dawn) are going to blow this built-in opportunity, as every new alien-conquered body is announced and underlined with a foreboding close-up and a doom-and-gloom dash of music. But after an overly long setup and some clunky plotting, the movie gets you to that point of giddy disorientation where every time a character leaves your sight and comes back, you have to wonder. Some cheap thrills and some real surprises (some of which come from the fact that it's so hard to tell the difference between the cardboard personalities of the aliens and the cardboard performances of the actors) are delivered, and while Williamson and Rodriguez have no interest in imbuing The Faculty with any of the political undertones given to Body Snatchers, or with any of the intoxicating style John Carpenter brought to The Thing, they do provide exactly what they seem to be going for-an f/x-ridden, mindlessly fun time-filler. A moviegoer looking for an empty-headed waste of time could do worse.

--David Luty