GHOSTS OF MARS by John Carpenter, one of the B-movie kings, is a horror movie
set on the red planet in the year 2176. Don't worry, you'll feel right at home
since it is a retro future in which flashlights and many other technologies
haven't advanced at all in almost two centuries. The movie's unluckily
possessed humans, a group of miners, look like members of the heavy metal band
KISS. They run around like cave men, yell like wild animals and decorate their
bodies through massive self-mutilation.
Those going in hopes of the over-the-top fun of Carpenter's last picture,
VAMPIRES, will leave disappointed. Here the action is merely ridiculous without
the energetic fun of VAMPIRES. Still, after a lifeless first act, the movie
does pick up the pace in the middle. The ending, however, doesn't hang
together. The result is an uneven movie that's much less hit than miss.
The story concerns the train transportation of a notorious criminal named James
"Desolation" Williams. As Desolation, Ice Cube's lack of acting talent turns
into an asset, making his stilted dialog come across as campy wit. Natasha
Henstridge, from the SPECIES series, is the movie's leading character, Melanie
Ballard, the second in command of the police force that has come to retrieve
Desolation. Pam Grier plays the detail's commander.
When they arrive at the mining camp where Desolation is being held, it's almost
a ghost town, thanks to the destruction caused by the aforementioned miners. It
seems that something deep within the planet has been unleashed and has inhabited
The movie is as dead as an asteroid until Ballard and Desolation become caustic
comrades in the battle against the heavy metallers. The barbs they trade put
enough needed life into the movie to make you hope that it will finally take
off, but it never achieves lift-off. Although some of the drug usage in the
story looks a bit too inviting, one scene could serve as an excellent public
service announcement against drugs. It is a sickly funny scene that becomes one
of the more memorable incidents in a movie whose memory has a half-life measured
"Maybe I'd sleep with you if you were the last man on earth," Ballard tells one
of her men (Jason Statham), who keeps hitting on her, "but we're not on earth."
It is a joke in which you know the punch line before it's delivered. Most of
the movie is like that.
GHOSTS OF MARS at least has the good sense to run only 1:38. It is rated R for
"strong violence/gore, language and some drug content" and would be acceptable
for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes