Ghosts of Mars

It all goes downhill from the poster

I had last seen this movie when I was a kid and had wanted to watch it again for years. Clearly the years had done a good job, since I had forgotten all about how absolutely, mind-fuckingly shite this movie was. It is the worst load of absolute tosh that John Carpenter ever shit out, and I have no idea why no one, no one during the project had the good sense to point out that it was going down the drain and the charitable thing would have been to fire everyone involved, burn the set and fraud the remaining budget, launder it through a bank in Belize and channel it to help the millions starving.

It is actually surprising why this movie so absolutely shit, since it looks very good on paper. A group of futuristic Spartan Swat-members on Mars are sent to bring in a dangerous criminal while everyone in town has been killed by vengeful Martial spirits. That is a premise that could go on to do very cool things, but every decision made in making this film went dead fucking wrong. It could have been like Aliens meets Sergio Leone meets Evil dead. Awesome sci-fi atmosphere, fun splatter and bad-asses. But no. It just sucks.

Looking scary or just looking like a dickhead?

So for the complete list of things that sucks, see item everything. Acting is terrible, dialogue is forced and uncomfortable, characterisation is non-existent, Ice Cube sucks, Jason Statham is rubbish, effects are shit, outfits are ridiculous, editing is the worst I have ever seen in a big budget movie, cultists are ridiculous, soundtrack is average (despite Anthrax), chronology is bollocks, atmosphere is non-existent, sets look worse than the ones in Doctor Who, and in a single word: piddle.

Initially Statham was supposed to be the dangerous gangster but was then replaced with Ice Cube (bad call), so he was given a smaller role as one of the Fascist Swat-members. And he’s crap. He holds such potential with an awesome British accent and charismatic presence, but since his only motivation in the movie is to bone Natasha Henstridge and his dialogue comprises of horny teenager pick-up lines…it falls flat on its arse. It’s like Quagmire time-warped out of Family Guy into Statham’s character and did what a passing iceberg might do to an errand H.M.S. Titanic.

And Ice Cube? As a credible fast, dangerous “Desolation” Williams, multiple murderer and vile desperado? Yeah, you’re already laughing thinking about it? It doesn’t get any better when you see it for real. It’s quite comical seeing the fellow actors trying to act intimidated around him and failing miserably.

“A cup of tea, Love? Maybe a shag?”

As for the outfits, they are crap as well. The long Gestapo-leather coats? Yeah, you look stupid. Keanu Reeves could pull it for about an hour at the time, you never stood a chance.

The Ghosts are a bit crap as well. The cultists could work, potentially, but something went really wrong in realizing them. It’s difficult to say whether they went over the top into tragic comedy, or didn’t go quite far enough. The horror element here should come from a sense of mystery, danger and dark atmosphere. Not from simply some blood left on the set and little bits of hand-crafts made from nails and metal wire left lying around. And certainly not from those clowns in make-up with kitchen-ware taped all over their bodies.

And finally we come to the end. The editing. Holy goddamn shit, what in the name of bollocks was up with the editing? Paul C. Warschilka, please explain. The sheer number of shitty cross-fade transitions is beyond belief. They must account for more than half of them, but where the hell did that idea come from? And the other little editorial effects swooshing from one bad scene into the next in bad transitions. Did you just discover them on the control-board and then something native and childlike instinct made you use ALL of them? I do not believe it. I honestly think I could personally have made a better job on this editing, and I have problems with just Windows Movie Maker.

Despite all this horrible crap, it might still be fun to watch. Assuming you have friends with you and a good supply of alcohol. I could suggest a drinking game with this movie, taking a sip every time there is a bad cross-fade or Jason Statham tries to get his cock out, but honestly, it would be downright irresponsible. No liver could take that kind of punishment, you’d be twisting on the floor, dying by the end of the first hour.

Must be people coming out of the Premiere. Oh never mind, it’s just the cultists..

Happily for us all, this movie bombed in an exemplary manner, left John Carpenter burnt out and ready to leave Hollywood for good (and a lot of movie goers I’m sure would have happily helped him pack and give him a decisive nudge towards the door) and did nothing for the careers of anyone involved.

John Carpenter did go on to make better things, and this particular bit of obscure nonsense is now available at the back-end of Netflix. So if you decide to watch it, don’t go alone, take some drunk friends and if you decide to give it a miss…nothing lost there. I do still think this movie should be remade, maybe with thought and effort this time.

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2 responses to “Ghosts of Mars

  1. Looks like he’s directed “The Ward” and some episodes in “Masters of Horror” and he’s done some screenwriting and production. I think the most important part is what he stopped making, ie Ghosts of Mars. But this movie was pretty much the deathblow to his career, and has at best limped along ever since.

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