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Ghosts of Mars [2001] Review: Could Have Been Worse

Packing a badass cast & good dose of gore-filled action, John Carpenter's penultimate film (to date) features an interesting premise and even set things up well in the beginning but once the main plot takes over, the script shortcomings begin to surface as dialogues go downhill, characters turn bland, acting takes a hit, VFX inadequacy is exposed, and the scare factor diminishes in its entirety. Not one of Carpenter's best but not a chore either, Ghosts of Mars has an unabashed quality to it that still makes the ride somewhat enjoyable despite the hammy performances & over-the-top execution.

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John Carpenter’s penultimate feature film to date is a horror sci-fi actioner that’s crafted like an exploitation flick and even though Ghosts of Mars features a badass cast & few good doses of gore-filled action, much of it is ruined by its unrefined script, terrible dialogues, dull characters & campy tone.




Set 200 years into the future on the red planet, most of which is now colonized, the story concerns a Martian police unit that’s tasked to transfer a dangerous prisoner from a mining outpost. But on arrival, they find the place to be deserted and survivors possessed by something sinister.

Co-written & directed by John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13 & They Live), the premise is an interesting one and the opening moments do set things up nicely but then the script shortcomings begin to surface as dialogues go downhill, characters turn bland, acting takes a hit, VFX inadequacy is exposed, and the scare factor diminishes in its entirety.

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Still, despite the hammy acting & over-the-top execution, there is an unabashed quality to it that makes it somewhat enjoyable. The story goes through every character’s recollection of the events involving them in flashbacks, and is jam-packed with those. Also, instead of getting things right, it simply embraces its flaws and just rolls with them.

Coming to the performances, the film packs a cool cast in Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Pam Grier & others but not a single one of them is remotely interesting enough to make us care about their predicament. A rather unexpected disappointment is the music, Carpenter’s ambient score lost in the noise provided by other artists that were asked to chip in.




On an overall scale, Ghosts of Mars definitely doesn’t rank amongst John Carpenter’s finest films but sitting through it isn’t a chore either, for the film somehow manages to deliver a surprisingly fun, amusing ride despite overflowing with drawbacks. The alien spirits trying to rid the planet of the invaders is an element that may never get old but had Carpenter polished the script some more, this could’ve been a bonafide classic.

★★

Ghosts of Mars Trailer

Ghosts Of Mars Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes 

 

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