John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars

In the 22nd Century we have colonised Mars, settlements have been formed and we are mining the Martian landscape.  Our story begins when a transport train pulls into the main station with just one police officer on board.  That particular cop had taken her team to collect the infamous criminal with probably one of genre cinema’s greatest character names, James “Desolation” Williams from a mining town’s police compound.  She tells an inquiry committee what happened and why she is the only survivor.

Upon reaching the town, they discover it is deserted and Williams is locked up safe and sound in a police cell.  However, strange things are afoot when the Commander played by Blaxploitation Legend Pam Grier disappears and bodies are found all mangled up and missing their heads.  Whatever lived in Mars centuries ago is awake and is possessing the miners and turning them into body piercing, leather wearing, self mutilating maniacs.  What follows is a fight for survival where the bad guys and the good guys team up to fight a common foe.

Often described as one of director John Carpenter’s lesser works ‘Ghosts of Mars’ isn’t no Escape from New York or They Live but it is an interesting mish-mash of various genres mixed together (western, horror, sci-fi) and even Carpenter’s own movies, the siege scene at the climax is very reminiscent of Escape from Precinct 13.  The cast is packed full of familiar faces, the two lead characters are played by Species’ Natasha Henstridge and Ice Cube.  Third billed and just starting out his Hollywood career is Jason Statham, who is not quite yet ‘The Stath’ but Transporter was only a few years away.  Statham plays hard-ass Jericho who spends practically the entire film trying to get into Henstridge’s knickers (who wouldn’t?) with a selection of crass suggestive comments.  Other actors popping up include Joanna Cassidy and Carpenter regular Peter Jason.

It’s a fine looking film and the effects are KNB are suitably gory with some of the mutilation stuff done very well.  As per usual Mr. Carpenter composes his own score with it being performed by Metal Gods Anthrax and Buckethead.  Seeing that the villains of the piece wouldn’t look out of place at a metal concert, the music fits in very well.

Indicator’s Blu-ray looks quite beautiful with the Martian reds looking quite spectacular.  The soundtrack is nice and loud with lots of bass used to good effect.  On the special features front, we have a commentary, ‘making-of’ featurettes and the second part of a Carpenter Q&A (part one is on the Vampires Blu-ray) amongst other bits and bobs.

Ferociously good horror/sci-fi entertainment and very under-rated I feel.  It may have been a bit of a box office flop at the time of the release but give it a second chance, I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.

  • Starring Natasha Henstridge  Jason Statham  Ice Cube  Clea DuVall  Robert Carradine
  • Director John Carpenter
  • Distributor Indicator/Powerhouse