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Ghosts of Mars

Review by Kelly

“In 2176, a Martian police unit is sent to pick up a highly dangerous criminal at a remote mining post. Upon arrival, the cops find that the post has become a charnel house.”

Ghosts of Mars was released in 2001 and was co-wrote and directed by John Carpenter. Have you seen this one? Unlikely, but if you did you would definitely remember it. It has a fantastic cast of mostly women: Natasha Henstridge, Clea DuVall, Pam Grier, Joanna Cassidy, along with Ice Cube and Jason Statham. With a big name director and a cast full of prominent actors, how could you go wrong? Color me intrigued.

The story is told through flashbacks given by Lieutenant Melanie Ballard (Henstridge) as a sole survivor of a terrible incident. She and a band of cops had to go to a small mining town to transfer a criminal, Desolation Williams (played by Ice Cube), to another facility. When they arrive, it seems everyone has been murdered violently for unknown reasons, leaving only Williams and a few random stragglers behind. It turns out that what is killing everyone are people “possessed” by an ancient alien organism that had been disturbed by researchers in the area. This alien force is an invisible one, and when someone is killed it transfers into another living human body. The “possessed” people become violent, pierce their flesh and file down their teeth. They also have a penchant for decapitation.

I was kinda pumped about seeing this movie as it looked to be something that I would be entertained by and enjoy. Also, has a fan of John Carpenter’s work, I was curious, again, to see what his more current (?) work has been like. Unfortunately, I was yet again disappointed.

In Ghosts of Mars, the acting was wooden and uninteresting, which is unfortunate because I have seen the cast in other movies so I know what they are capable of. Jason Statham is an actor I normally enjoy but his character was the basic horny soldier type that keeps hitting on Lt. Ballard, Henstridge’s character. I also wanted to find Henstridge’s character super badass but she kind of fell flat. The characters were all around definitely one dimensional. The explanation of the alien lifeforce(ghosts?) was minimal, placing a lot to our imagination, which often isn’t something that I want. I would much prefer to have a bit more backstory. The “creatures” that the humans turn into are actually quite reminiscent of the Reavers in Firefly/Serenity, but without the grim origin. I should definitely re-watch that... The lead “creature” actually looks a lot like a member of the Greek symphonic death metal band, Septicflesh! Oh, and speaking of metal music, the stock music used in this movie was laughable but did make for better (maybe?) action sequences. *Edit: John Carpenter also did the score....oh no.......

The movie, though having a large budget estimated to be about $28 million, looks like a Syfy movie - incredibly low budget and cheesy. It looks like a sitcom set. It was probably all just to pay the actors and Carpenter, seriously. The movie is too brightly lit which detracts from the potential moodiness and atmosphere of the movie. The transitions between scenes are often abrupt. I did really enjoyed the fact that the cast was mainly women, but I definitely would have liked to have them live long enough to see the end of the movie! Clea Duvall, a 90s favorite of mine, had a small, nondescript role sadly, along with Pam Grier but at least she was the Commander of the bunch. The kills were pretty decent though, with a lot of heads and limbs being cut off by flying saw blades! Although I found this movie to be much more entertaining than The Ward, it wasn’t incredibly enjoyable. Maybe my expectations are too high?

This definitely isn’t John Carpenter’s finest work even if it may have been slightly entertaining. If you saw this when it came out and want to revisit it, go for it, but for someone who wants to watch it for the first time, I would say go watch Pitch Black instead.

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