Ghosts of Mars (2001)
Directed by: John Carpenter | 98 minutes | action, horror | Actors: Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Clea DuVall, Pam Grier, Joanna Cassidy, Richard Cetrone, Rosemary Forsyth, Liam Waite, Duane Davis, Lobo Sebastian, Rodney A. Grant, Peter Jason, Wanda De Jesus, Doug McGrath, Rick Edelstein, Robert Carradine
The institution John Carpenter – a director with such a record you can really call that – was completely filleted in 2001 when he came up with ‘Ghosts of Mars’. It angered the filmmaker so much that he turned his back on Hollywood for nine years and stopped making films. It wasn’t until 2010 that he made his comeback with ‘The Ward’. Admittedly: ‘Ghosts of Mars’ is certainly not a classic, but this production isn’t that bad either. A bad Carpenter is still better than the average Hollywood production. For the ‘Master Of Terror’, making films is more than just a livelihood: it is a passion and you can see that in every movie – even the lesser ones.
In ‘Ghosts of Mars’, a special Martian police unit (with Natasha ‘Species’ Henstridge and Jason Statham in the ranks) is tasked with taking a dangerous prisoner (Ice Cube) to the cell. The jail is located on Mars. Unfortunately for the crew, the red planet turns out to be overrun with dangerous creatures. That’s going to be a fight!
If you translate the title into Dutch, you already know exactly what to expect and you cannot be disappointed. Ghosts of Mars is an old-fashioned ghost story set on Mars. Mars is quickly associated with a planet full of danger, and ghosts (except for Casper) are known for their evil intentions. Carpenter treats you to an action movie in which tough men and women fight off ghosts on an alien planet. What’s not to like? The pulp content is high, which is enhanced by the casting of Ice Cube, Statham and Henstridge. The supporting role of blaxploitation queen Pam Grier enhances the action.
The characters in this film have the depth of a wading pool. ‘Ghost of Mars’ therefore feels more like a snack than a full meal compared to Carpenter’s earlier work. Normally, the director manages to combine action, horror or sci-fi with appealing characters. In this 2001 production he lets it down and you look at walking clichés. However, the pace is good and the soundtrack that Carpenter wrote with metal band Anthrax is perfectly fine.
‘Ghosts of Mars’ is an unpretentious pulp film with momentum that can be viewed like a video clip. Expect bright colours, fierce action and a super light story that you will forget afterwards. Still, some scenes will stick and you won’t be bored for a moment. The fan of action movies, horror and Carpenter will have a great time as long as he or she doesn’t expect a masterpiece. Popcorn entertainment made on a relatively low budget: that’s the goal and that goal is achieved.