Being a latter day John Carpenter fan has been interesting. Around 1999 when I was first getting interested in horror, I was hearing that Carpenter was a rad director who had maybe lost his touch. Halloween, The Thing and Assault On Precinct 13 were all still considered classics (among plenty of others), but Escape From L.A., Vampires and Ghosts Of Mars seemed to mire is rep in many peoples’ eyes. I think that might have been a good thing for me, because I didn’t go in to all of his movies with expectations of his movies from the late 70s/early 80s. It also might have helped that I saw them mostly out of order, with Vampires either the first or second of his movies I ever saw (and quite liked if memory serves).
So, after seeing his most recent effort, The Ward, I figured I’d check out the movie that made him stop making movies for 10 years: Ghosts Of Mars. Overall, I thought it was an alright movie, but I can see why it might have drained the director. Not only was it a big budget sci-fi/horror flick with lots of series stunts but also a good deal of special effects that maybe should have been done practically (or held off on until a few technological advancements had been made).
The story revolves around a group of cops on Mars heading to a mining colony (or is it a prison colony?) for a prisoner transfer. But it turns out that most of the people in the area have been turned into bloodthirsy killers. The idea is that these Martian organisms died many years ago, but not they’re working their way into humans as a way to keep them from terraforming their planet. It’s a pretty good idea that’s mostly well done, but there are definitely problems.
First and foremost is the goofy script. Stars Ice Cube and Natasha Henstridge deliver some real headslappers when it comes to lines. In fact, most of Ice Cube’s shouted dialog sounds like it was added in to give the movie a more 90s urban flare, which is silly considering it takes place on the Mars of the future. Anyway, Jason Statham and Pam Grier came to play and did well. Statham looks a LOT like Bruce Willis in this movie. Anyway, the other problem I had was some pretty craptastic CGI. The mutant/zombie/bad guys throw buzz saw blades as weapons with a strength and accuracy so precise it’s laughable. But the real problem is how bad the special effects look in these scenes. Everything looks good and practical and real and then you see what look like pie plates running across the screen. Ed Wood had better looking flying saucers.
Anyway, at the end of the day, GOM is a good idea with some poor execution. Perhaps, of all of Carpenter’s movies, this one should be remade or added onto instead of his legit classics.