Clive Dawson’s screenplay adaption of the short “The Animators” submerges us into a desolate atmosphere we’ve experienced in classics like “The Thing.” Isolation has been a powerful tool in sci-fi works and debuting director Ruairi Robinson uses it strongly in order to create a thick sense of distress amongst the crew, before we are introduced to the graver dangers that are cosmic zombies. I had read about this movie prior to it’s release and despite being part of the Liev Shreiber fan club and all, I had a feeling it’d come out a lot like an “Apollo 18,” where NOTHING HAPPENED and the pay off monster shots were pebbles or even worse… “Ghosts of Mars” (A moment of silence).
What we get with “The Last Days on Mars” is attractive cinematography that paints the movie in “2001: Space Odyssey” fashion with the help of retro-space lab props and the emergence of a new cosmic hero. The team is already at each other’s throats because of disobeyed protocols that eventually lead to a scientist being infected by the organism, a proof of life, he discovered but has withheld from the others’ knowledge. This parasitic organism eventually takes complete control over the body, leaving nothing but a blackened, furious corpse. What separates these creatures from the mindless brain gnawing favorites is how personal they kill. I mean, they don’t want to somberly moan and bite you… they are more of a ‘pick up a drill and poke holes in your body, my symbiote wants to eat!’ kind of breed infecting and feeding relentlessly, blowing things up and intelligently mouse-trapping their prey.
As the cast is thinned out, Vincent Campbell (Shreiber) is molded into their last hope with the help of the intelligent Rebecca Lane (Romola Garai). The roles in this film highlight some stereotype-casts we’ve seen in classics like “Alien,” with higher grade acting than we are used to getting from zombie blood fests. Elias Koteas (“Shutter Island”/”TMNT 2: SotO”) and Olivia Williams (“The Sixth Sense”) are amongst the familiar faces in this dirge of the undead, yielding some intense screen time between co-stars Johnny Harris and the more colorful Goran Kostic (I’d watch a spin off cosmic flick with this guy alone!).
Keep in mind, this isn’t your Hollywood horror take on a classic, but a low-budget nod to the era of even lower budgeted space adventures. However, despite the lack of deep pockets, you don’t miss the obnoxious CGI-everything we’ve come to expect from bigger names in the business, in turn adding to the general sense of displacement and mystery instilled from the very beginning.
The actual environment created doesn’t look bad either, impressive for a budget peaking at a mere 12,000,000 Euros (approx. $16,400,000). Movie producers should take note of small project flicks such as this where chemistry amongst the cast is part of the horror unraveling. The storyline isn’t something new to the genre and combining different horror aspects isn’t a breath of fresh air either, but this movie works under its own laws of space infection, making a very interesting little package, not solely relying on gore and the macabre.
3 pints of blood out of 5