John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars

It's quite a feat to make a horror movie as boring as John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars. Maybe Carpenter (John Carpenter's Vampires, John Carpenter's Escape From L.A.) should think more before having his name plastered right before the film title, as he seems so fond of doing. More films like this one are liable to ruin his fading reputation. Ghosts of Mars is a horror movie disguised as science fiction. The 'aliens' are not really aliens, they are actually zombies. Aside from the setting and the clothes, there is nothing to really say this film takes place in distant 2176 A.D. Mars is a mining colony, similar in many ways to the Old West. Settlers live off the land, which is desolate and arid. The zombies even resemble archaic stereotypes of 'natives.' The premise of the story is that a group of policemen are going to transport James "Desolation" Williams (Ice Cube, Next Friday, Three Kings) to Shining Station, one of the many outposts on Mars.

Lt. Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge, A Better Way to Die, Bounce) is in charge of the mission to transport Williams. However, once they reach Shining Station, they see a deserted town that should be full of activity. Like all stupid people in horror movies, they investigate and quickly find something very wrong. Bloodshed ensues, and people die off. Ballard realizes that the only way for her team to survive is to enlist the help of Williams, who they've locked up for their own safety. Oh no! Can they trust him? Some of the other people under Ballard are Jericho Butler (Jason Statham, The One, Snatch), Bashira Kincaid (Clea DuVall, Girl, Interrupted, But I'm A Cheerleader), and Helena Braddock (Pam Grier, Snow Day, Love the Hard Way). They find Dr. Whitlock (Joanna Cassidy, Moonglow, The Right Temptation), one of the only people around. Quickly (but not quickly enough) they ascertain that the people are actually zombies, possessed by a green mist the miners uncovered. If a normal person comes in contact with a zombie, he/she will eventually turn into one.

Ghosts of Mars, co-written by Larry Sulkis (Village of the Damned, The Journey Inside) quickly turns into a race to escape, culminating in a bizarre dash to the train. The zombies never seem like that great a threat, they just keep fighting. Henstridge's character is so restrained that she is boring to watch, and it shows because Cube looks bored with the entire affair (after looking tough for a while). Carpenter also tries to add depth to the film by adding background information like how women seem to be the dominant gender, but it is all a bunch of hooey. People watch these types of movies for a couple of reasons. Violence and gore, which is in the movie, but nothing out of the ordinary, the scare factor, which is not there because it is all violence and gore, and, sadly, t & a, which is virtually absent from here. The sense of urgency necessary for these people to survive is never there. Instead, the movie feels prolonged, even though it is only ninety-six minutes. The viewer keeps wishing the movie would end, and it keeps going, as if it were some kind of zombie itself.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated R for strong violence/gore, language, and some drug content.

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