Synopsis – 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.
Director – John Carpenter
Released – 2001
For fans of – The Thing, Escape from New York, Ghost Ship
Ghosts of Mars is a much-maligned movie, seen by some as just another early ’00s b-movie and others as Carpenter recapturing his touch when it comes to horror/sci-fi. I sit firmly in the middle, sure, it’s an interesting and action-packed ride, yet I can’t help but feel that it was a missed opportunity to create a film that surprised the audience with its choice of antagonist and with that could have been a whole lot scarier.
Ghosts of Mars is full of over-the-top, brutal action that once it gets going, doesn’t slow down until the conclusion of the film. Despite this, Carpenter uses his immense skill to prevent the film from devolving into another in a long line of lowest-common-denominator action-horror that came out around the same time, such as Resident Evil, and Alone in the Dark and Doom. Carpenter perfectly balances the action sequences with interesting characters and plot development, leaving room for the plot to take some unexpected twists and turns, something that those other films failed to do.
In terms of performance, Natasha Henstridge is surprisingly good in the lead role as Lt. Melanie Ballard and it’s a shame that her career failed to take off following this. Ice Cube is exactly what you would expect as James ‘Desolation’ Williams, doing a good job, yet I can’t help but feel this role was originally planned as a third Escape From movie, with Kurt Russell returning as Snake Plissken. The only actors, who struggled to find their roles were Clea DuVall as one of the rookies and Jason Statham, both of which were simply fine.
It won’t be for everybody. Ghosts of Mars is brutal and isn’t afraid to get bloody, the more squeamish among you might find it shocking and the open-ended finale might leave some feeling a lack of closure, however, that just leaves those with a decent imagination to come up with your own conclusion, one that can be as light or dark as you desire.