While most diehard horror fans have their own favorite directors, most every day moviegoers won’t recognize their names. There are, however, names that have become synonymous with the genre, even for casual fans. One of those names is, of course, John Carpenter. I have managed to catch most of his flicks throughout the years, but one that has always escaped me until now is his 2001 film, Ghosts of Mars.
In a distant future, a Mars police unit is sent to pick up and deliver a highly dangerous criminal from a remote mining post. Upon arrival, they find the seemingly-abandoned area to be a slaughterhouse inhabited by a ravenous army of the possessed.
I remember watching the first 10 minutes or so of Ghosts of Mars a few years back and, for whatever reason, turning the film off never to resume it. Tonight, however, after being reminded that I had this very film sitting on one of my many shelves, I decided there was no better time to give it my full, undivided attention.
I am extremely glad that I finally gave this movie the time it deserves. Ghosts of Mars does begin kind of slow and I must admit that it took me a little bit of time to follow what was going on. It isn’t an overly complicated concept, but getting the timeline straight and realizing what exactly everyone’s roles were did take me a bit.
Ghosts of Mars is perhaps one of John Carpenter’s most ambitious movies. It is packed with way more action than I’ve seen in any of his other projects and it really is a blast.
There are action-heavy shootouts between the protagonist officers and their new deputies and the self-mutilated, disfigured creatures of Mars, backed by a heavy metal soundtrack, created and composed by Carpenter himself, performed by the band Anthrax and Buckethead.
On top of that, there are more explosions in the film’s hour and 38 minutes than most filmmakers will ever put on display in their entire careers!
Not winning any academy awards for best acting, Ghosts of Mars does feature a competent cast of some pretty well-known faces. Everyone does well enough with their roles with the standouts being Natasha Henstridge (Species) as Lt. Melanie Ballard, Ice Cube (Anaconda) as “Desolation” Williams, and Jason Statham (The Meg, Hobbs and Shaw) as Jericho.
Genre and movie fans in general will recognize many other faces throughout the film with the likes of Peter Jason (They Live, Escape from L.A.), Richard Carradine (Blackout, Revenge of the Nerds), and Pam Grier (Sheba Baby, Jackie Brown) popping up.
Originally released in 2001, Ghosts of Mars is an extremely fun ride. It’s ravenous Martian cult looks like extras straight out of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000 or a Mad Max flick, if not straight out of some s&m dungeon somewhere.
A lot of the visual effects are less than stellar, a product of the times, but all can be forgiven after seeing the amazing work that Greg Nicotero and his KNB team did throughout. Decapitations, slit throats, and a myriad of other fatal wounds all look amazing from start to finish, making this film even more entertaining than it already was.
This isn’t your typical atmospheric terror that you may be used to with a lot of the Carpenter classics. It is in-your-face and packs a punch and I really did love almost every second of it.
If you are a collector like me, you will want to grab yourself a copy of the film’s home release. It is available from a few different companies in different regions, but Mill Creek Entertainment has a worthy release here in the states.
The newly released Blu-ray comes with a few behind-the-scenes bonus features, including video diaries made during the film’s original shoots, audio commentary, and an amazing featurette on the scoring of the film.
Pick up your copy today… I highly recommend seeing this film if you haven’t already.
I give Ghosts of Mars 4 self-amputated thumbs out of 5.