Ghosts Of Mars

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Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Clea DuVall, Pam Grier
Director: John Carpenter

Mars, 2176, long inhabited by human settlers, has become a working environment for many escaping the over-populated Earth. Mars (as in TOTAL RECALL et al) has become a mining planet, but one of those mining outposts has discovered a deadly secret: a long dormant Martian civilisation who are hell bend on turning the human intruders into 80’s Goths. I kid you not. It seems that the ancient Martian civilisation listened to the Cure and The Sisters of Mercy, picked up by radio waves which emanated from Earth circa 1985. Perhaps it was today’s transmissions of Marilyn Manson, who may explain their vocal capabilities. It’s a shame Carpenter didn’t cast him or just saved money and filmed one of his concerts (although in parts it looks more Like Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys’ video than anything else – I was truly expecting to see a submerged Simon Le Bon on a windmill at any point!)

In keeping with this theme, John Carpenter has gone back to 1985 and used all of the special effects techniques available at that time, as well as a soundtrack and some of the actors, which means of course that we are back in classic, independent, cheap and cheerful John Carpenter territory. Welcome back John.

Those of you who aren’t fans of Carpenter’s work (or have only seen some of his recent lesser efforts) will think this a cheap exploitation movie. Suitable only for showings at the local flea pit. Those of you who are fans will cheer at the ham acting, the poor effects, the huge holes in plot, the synth score, the editing, the one liners and the references to all sorts of B movie plots.

At one time, Carpenter was famous for his references and homage’s to Howard Hawks. Now it seems Carpenter is happy to pay homage to another master film maker – himself. GHOSTS OF MARS is basically a remake of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 set on the red planet. We have all the Carpenter touches – the strong female leads (Natasha Hendrige, Pam Grier) and the male lead that is picked for his cult appeal – not a wrestler this time but rapper Ice Cube, one of the strong black characters that always feature in a Carpenter flick, a great character name (Desolation as opposed to Snake) and lots of shooting. No helicopters this time though- it’s set in 2067 going on 1985 after all.

Although this is a 15 certificate it is very violent (if it wasn’t referred to as the red planet previously it would have been after one of Carpenters action scenes) but the violence is done with it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek.

Although this film is a real return to form of sorts for Carpenter, it’s no THEY LIVE or HALLOWEEN. Carpenter’s list of cult films is probably surpassed only by Roger Corman, but give this five years and this will also be a another true Carpenter cult classic, joining the others that deserve to be there (DARK STAR, HALLOWEEN, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, STARMAN and THE FOG) and those that don’t (VAMPIRES).

Please can someone give John Carpenter a large budget along with the right vehicle (I’ve heard many stories about his involvement in the remakes of THE OMEGA MAN and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) before he reverts back to using beach balls as monsters due to budget restrictions. If you need any proof of what he can do given the time and resources, check out the DVD release of THE THING.

4 out of 6 stars