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Ghosts Of Mars (2001)
Director: John Carpenter

review by Trent Walters

They warned you not to go. They pulled their hair and screamed you'd regret it if you went through with it. But you didn't listen... to the critics of Ghosts Of Mars.
   The idea is actually interesting but almost as thin as the plot. Scientists open an ancient tomb that houses the ghosts of the title; humans inhaling a red dust become possessed zombie monsters that kill the 'alien invaders' from Earth. The head scientist takes off in a balloon for the safety of another city. Only, when the possessed die, the dust hitches a ride on the wind.
   Meanwhile, cops head into the same small mining town to pick up a convict who is under suspicion for murdering six people. When they arrive, the town is empty except for the jail cells where the cops meet up with the scientist. The scientist says it was the only safe place - which follows absolutely no story logic because soon the dust flows into the cells and the prisoners, too, become possessed. Another obvious plot device to milk the story is the train that drops the cops off takes off for a few hours and returns. Where did it go? Why? Before the train can pull in, and despite having monitors to show when the train might arrive, everyone piles outside, walks past the zombies to stand at the tracks for a moment, bewildered what to do next, then they attack - even though they know that to kill a zombie allows the dust to possess one of them. The train arrives and they pile out again to escape, but then stop the train. They've got to go back. The dust will keep coming. So the plan is to blow the dust to kingdom come via nuclear explosion - even though they don't know if it will do any good, they've got to try. They blow it up; more chaos ensues; but the moviemakers have to pave the way for a sequel in case the movie gets popular.
   Even if you want a bit of action with your weekly allotment of schlock, the main disappointment here is that the action isn't all that interesting. It's mostly just a confused mêlée of fists, feet, bullets and hand grenades. The long shots of scenery and the balloon ride are actually majestic and inspiring, but the oddly bright interior lighting makes the sets look cheap, like a made-for-TV SF flick. Every character's acting is 100 percent tough-guy. Ice Cube's brother dies - so, ah well, let's blow up some zombies. The man whom the female lead (Natasha Henstridge) was about to make love to gets his head whacked off. Are the viewers supposed to care? The actors don't.
   John Carpenter has done quality SF with The Thing (1982), based on John W. Campbell's classic short story Who Goes There?, but it's best to view Ghosts Of Mars as the kind of movie to watch when you've exhausted all the quality SF but still need an SF fix. Maybe, to be taken seriously again, Carpenter should return to mining the strong plots of classic genre short stories. There's plenty of gold left in them hills.

Related items:
tZ  Mission To Mars film review by Peter Schilling
tZ  Red Planet film review by Tony Lee
Ghosts Of Mars
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