is a 1998
film directed by Robert Rodriguez
. The story involves a parasitic alien
landing in small-town Ohio
and turning the faculty of a High School
into its puppets
, followed by the students and the rest of the town.Six students
, however, manage to find out what's going on: academically-challenged football player
Stan Rosado, Goth
chick Stokely Mitchell, nerdy kid
and school newspaper photographer Casey Connor, queen bitch
Delilah Profitt, drug-dealing delinquent
Zeke Tyler and New Transfer Student
Marybeth Louise Hutchinson. Together, they set out to put a stop to the aliens, armed only with Zeke's drugs (which are instantly fatal to the aliens) and their knowledge
of Alien Invasion
movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Among the rare successful horror comedies
(especially out of the bunch that followed in Scream (1996)
), both very funny and very scary. The film's writer, Kevin Williamson, also wrote the first two Scream
movies, which helped it to avoid making the mistakes of many of the copycat
teen horror movies of the late '90s. Expect loads of creative gore
and really creative casting
This film provides examples of:
- Accidental Athlete: It's not the main plotline, but the football coach does mention Casey's athletic ability after seeing him run away from aliens.
- Alien Invasion
- Aliens in Cardiff: Lampshaded and justified. When one character claims that it would be absurd for aliens to secretly invade via a High School in a small town and brainwash the population, another Genre Savvy character points out that this would attract a lot less attention than attacking a big city, which the whole world will notice. See the page quote.
- And Some Other Stuff: Zeke's drugs are made from a mixture of "caffeine pills and some other household shit."
- Assimilation Plot
- Beautiful All Along: Miss Burke is an evil version of this trope. All it takes to make her look sexy is fixing her hair, dropping her glasses and giving her a red tank top...but this occurs after she's been turned into an alien puppet.
- Though being played by Famke Janssen certainly doesn't hurt either.
- Big Bad /Big Bad Friend: Marybeth, who is revealed to be the alien hive queen in human form.
- Billing Displacement: R&B star Usher is featured prominently on the poster despite appearing in only five minutes of the movie. None of the other cast members were all that famous (at the time), while Usher is, well, Usher.
- Body Horror: The parasite dehydrates the old Mrs. Brummel to the point where her skin falls off of her body.
- Also, Marybeth's transformation into her alien form.
- Book Dumb / Brilliant but Lazy: Zeke is clearly very smart and resourceful, yet he's repeating his senior year because, instead of focusing on school, he chooses to concentrate on pursuits such as manufacturing drugs and dealing various illegal merchandise to other students.
- Breakfast Club: The six main characters.
- Break Them by Talking: Used multiple times by the pod people against the heroes, but the big one is delivered by Marybeth. When the Big Bad confronts Casey in the locker room, the Big Bad tries to convince him that, by joining the aliens, he will be happy and will no longer have to suffer through humiliation at the hands of his peers. When Casey refuses to be swayed, the Big Bad simply gives up, tells him that it's too late and that the aliens have already won, and comes after him.
- Brick Joke: During the credits, clips from the movie are used to accompany all of the lead actors except for Jon Stewart. He's shown teaching again, only with an eye patch and his hand bandaged.
- The Cameo: By Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles, of all people.
- Clark Kenting: The popular girl Delilah, in order to avoid being recognized by the aliens (who are targeting the most popular kids in school so that they can infect the most people), briefly disguises herself as a nerd by putting on Nerd Glasses. It works about as well as you would expect it to work — she gets infected anyway.
- Closet Shuffle: While breaking into the teacher's lounge looking for a scoop, Casey and Delilah hide in a broom closet when they hear teachers approaching. Here, they find the dead body of Mrs. Brummel and witness the school nurse get held down and infected.
- Combat Tentacles: The head alien has these.
- Cool Car: Zeke drives a Pontiac GTO.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Not only do Casey's parents take away his phone, internet and music as punishment, but they also confiscate his porn. Casey's father tells him "No more flogging the bishop."
- Drugs Are Bad: Inverted. The alien parasites are dried out and ultimately killed by the meth-like drug that Zeke makes and then sells in the parking lot. This drug is used in order to test who has been infected with the parasite.
- Dumb Muscle: Stan, much to his dismay. He feels that his heavy involvement as the captain of the football team is damaging his academic performance, and that his teachers are giving him preferential treatment just because he's a star athlete. This causes him to quit the team in order to focus on schoolwork.
- Dwindling Party: Dalilah is the first to be turned into an alien, followed by Stan and Stokely, the latter offscreen by Marybeth, who it turns out was the Queen all along. Casey and Zeke are the only ones not to be infected, although Zeke takes quite a beating from the Queen, and Casey is seconds away from getting infected before the Queen dies.
- Eldritch Abomination: Marybeth turns out to be one. Of the alien variety.
- Everybody Lives: Surprisingly there is a total of three casualties (if Jon Stewart's character turning up in the ending credits isn't canon) in the whole film, none of whom are the main characters.
- Everybody Must Get Stoned: At one point in the movie, Zeke forces everybody to take his drugs so that they could find out who is being controlled by the aliens. Intoxication Ensues.
- Evil Overlooker: Marybeth's face at the back of the poster certainly qualifies.
- Evil Teacher: The teachers are the first people to get infected, and spread it from there.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: In the finale Casey now has product in his hair, which symbolises his Character Development.
- Eye Scream: Mr. Furlong gets stabbed in the eye by Zeke with one of his drug pens.
- Fake American: Canadian actress Laura Harris as the Southern girl Marybeth, complete with a ridiculously over-the-top Southern accent. In-Universe, this also applies to Marybeth herself, making it a justified example.
- Fake-Out Make-Out: Subverted. While breaking into the school's storeroom to steal ingredients for his drugs, Zeke cites the trope to reassure Marybeth should they be caught. However, the two aren't patient and start making out regardless.
- Fiction as Cover-Up:
Casey: I think so.
- Fingore: Mr. Furlong is bitten by the alien specimen that Casey finds. It takes a nice chuck out of his pointer finger. Later, after having been infected by the aliens, he has all four fingers of one hand cut off by a paper slicer.
- Five-Man Band: Not the variety used on this site, but the one used in The Breakfast Club — the princess (Delilah), the criminal (Zeke), the brain (Casey), the athlete (Stan) and the basket case (Stokely). There's also the new girl (Marybeth) who turns out to be the Big Bad.
Marybeth: "I'm feeling pretty alien myself today."
- Don't forget her saying that Zeke's drugs would probably kill her due to her allergies. Guess what the aliens' weakness is?
- Four-Temperament Ensemble
- Stan is sanguine
- Delilah is choleric
- Casey and Stokely are melancholic
- Zeke is phlegmatic
- Marybeth is supine until she reveals herself to be the queen alien
- Full-Frontal Assault: Marybeth while chasing Casey in the locker room.
- Full-Name Basis: Marybeth always introduces herself by her full name, Marybeth Louise Hutchinson.
- Genre Savvy: This is a late '90s teen horror film — it goes with the territory.
- Give Geeks a Chance: Two examples. The school Butt Monkey Casey ends up with the Alpha Bitch Delilah. Gender Flipping things, moody goth Stokeley ends up with football player Stan.
- Glamour Failure: In addition to the obvious lack of emotion characteristic of Puppeteer Parasites, people infected with the alien parasite can be discerned by their need to drink lots of water, as the things quickly dehydrate their hosts. This is also why Zeke's drugs are so effective against them (the drugs absorb water and dehydrate people).
- Goth: Stokely, although by the end, she's turned into a Perky Goth.
- Groin Attack: Near the beginning of the film, Casey gets picked up by a group of bullies, has his legs spread apart and gets his crotch slammed into a light pole.
- Gym Teacher Nasty: And played by Robert Patrick, no less.
- High School
- Held Back In School: Zeke
- Hollywood Nerd: Elijah Wood as the nerdy kid Casey.
- Homage: The entire film is an homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Puppet Masters, with Shout Outs aplenty.
- I Was Just Joking
Casey: Everyone's been acting really weird, especially the faculty.
Stokely: Tell me about it; it's like they've all turned into fucking pod people or something.
Casey: Into what people?
- Impaled Palm: Coach Willis stabs a pencil straight through Principal Drake's hand and it makes a gruesome crunch when he yanks it back out again. She is understandably horrified.
- Impostor Exposing Test: Using Zeke's drugs.
- Ironic Echo:
- When Zeke is selling pens full of drugs to some students, he tells them that the stuff is "guaranteed to jack you up." Casey later repeats this line before he stabs and kills Marybeth with one of these pens.
- While snooping in the teachers' lounge, Casey tells Delilah that she can be "pretty cool sometimes" (i.e. when she's not being the Alpha Bitch). Delilah asks if he's hitting on her. At the end of the film, Delilah repeats this line to Casey, whom she is now dating.
- It Was Here, I Swear: Casey ends up in this situation when he brings the police to the school to recover Mrs. Brummel's body. When they open the closet, the body has disappeared and been replaced with a Resuscitation Annie Doll.
- Lens Flare Censor: In reverse. The darkness is used to cover up Marybeth's naughty bits. It doesn't work so well on the DVD, though.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Delilah is given a Freudian Excuse (dead father, alcoholic mother) and seems to have mellowed out by the climax.
- Lovable Jock: Stan, especially when compared to the more jerkish football players.
- Missing Trailer Scene: Almost all of them. One website joked about this by showing a scene with the title "The Faculty, as not seen in The Faculty."
- The Mole: Played straight when Delilah gets infected. Slightly subverted with Marybeth who, unlike most Moles, isn't working for the bad guys—she's their leader.
- Monster Progenitor: The Alien Queen.
- New Transfer Student: Marybeth has just moved to town from Atlanta. Or so she says.
- No Ontological Inertia: Justified. After Zeke examines one of the parasites, he notices that it doesn't have all the necessary organs to sustain itself independently and concludes (correctly) that there must be an alien queen with a telepathic link to all of her "offspring." Killing her would kill all the parasites, returning everyone to their normal selves.
- Not Now, Kiddo: Even though the alien-controlled teachers make up a cover story for what he saw that would still realistically scare a teenager, Casey's parents decide he needs counseling, search his room for drugs and decide to take away his phone, internet, stereo and even his Porn Stash (which they seem bizarrely completely okay with). Because that's parenting.
- Now or Never Kiss: Stan and Stokely kiss before Stan goes out to see if the people outside are still infected, with Stokely remarking that she didn't want to have never done that.
- Off With Her Head: Miss Burke. She gets better, though.
- Orifice Invasion: Of the ear variety.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
Casey: Guaranteed to jack you up.
- Puppeteer Parasite
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Marybeth gives one to Casey at the end. See Break Them by Talking.
- Recycled IN SPACE! / Setting Update: Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing (1982) in High School!
- Red Herring Mole: Before the heroes find out who the real head alien is (it's Marybeth), they go through a number of false guesses, including the principal and the coach.
- Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: Zeke (Ezekiel) and Delilah both get their names from Biblical figures.
- School Newspaper Newshound: Delilah and Casey, although the latter is only a photographer.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Stan's teachers curve his grades because he's the captain of the football team. Unlike most examples, he's fairly dismayed by this, enough so that he quits the team.
- The Shadow Knows: Around the end of the film, the Hive Queen tries to appeal to Casey, using the Marybeth disguise she's been using for the whole film. The shadow in the room, however, is a tentacled mass that keeps moving and nearly covers it, all coming from a average-sized teenager.
- Shrinking Violet: Both Stokely and (pre-infection) Miss Burke.
- Single-Biome Planet: The head alien is from a planet covered entirely with water. This is the reason why people infected with the alien parasite need to drink lots of water—the thing needs a lot of it, and it dehydrates people rather quickly.
- Six Student Clique:
- The head: Zeke
- The muscle: Stan
- The quirk: Casey
- The pretty one: Delilah
- The smart one: Marybeth. She is, after all, the mastermind of the Alien Invasion.
- The wild one: Stokely
- Sorry, I'm Gay: Stokely pretends to be a lesbian in order to prevent guys from hitting on her.
- Sucky School: There is a scene early on that takes place at a faculty meeting, where they are deciding how to divide the school's budget. Much to the teachers' chagrin, money that could be used for buying new textbooks or putting on a School Play other than Our Townnote is instead directed towards the football team because, as Principal Drake explains, they live in a football town. She doesn't think the football team deserves all the attention and funding, but it's what the parents want.
- Also, take a look at the map of Europe in the history classroom. Despite the film being set in 1998, the map still shows a united Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, implying that it's at least ten years old — and judging by the condition it's in, probably older.
- Several of the door frames look like they could use, at a minimum, a new coat of paint.
- Take That: Stokley specifically points out that Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a blatant ripoff of The Puppet Masters.
- Teacher/Student Romance: The infected Miss Burke hides in the back of Zeke's car, then attempts to seduce him when he's speeding away from the infected football team. Zeke then slams the car into a school bus, sending her through the windshield and decapitating her. She gets better. The final scenes imply that they Hooked Up Afterwards, which is at least marginally less squicky because he's been held back and is, presumably, of age.
- Uncanny Valley Girl: Marybeth
- Utopia Justifies the Means: The motivation of Marybeth, the queen of the parasitic alien species.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: During the climax, Marybeth switches between human and alien forms at will.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: It's not confirmed if Principal Drake and Mr Furlong are actually dead. Both were seemingly killed off during the attacks. But Miss Burke was decapitated and turns up alive at the end.
- Write What You Know: Casey references this trope when trying to explain to Stokely why he believes that Invasion of the Body Snatchers was Based on a True Story.