This movie is just plain awful. Not B-movie bad. Certifiably terrible. In fact, the only things that make Ghosts of Mars (2001, 98 minutes) tolerable are the generous number of squishy decapitations and the driving heavy metal score. And what's the point of putting Natasha Henstridge in an exploitation picture where she DOESN'T unleash those fabulous fun bags? It's painful to pan a B-giant like John Carpenter, but doggoneit he KNOWS better. The whole project kinda got snake bit though when the original star, get this, COURTNEY LOVE up and decided she had a hurt ankle and couldn't be a movie star right then. Put HER in the equation and the whole thing might have veered clear of the ditch, especially since most folks would swear she IS from MARS.
The movie: In the year 2176 earthlings are real close to turning Mars into a kick ass Earth sequel. And like the original, its got more than its fair share of ne'er-do-wells like Desolation Williams (Ice Cube). He's got himself locked up at a god forsaken mining camp for spending money that wasn't his and CineSchlocker goddess Pam Grier leads a squad of cops sent to collect him for trial. On arrival, the team finds that the camp has been deserted and redecorated with human pinatas strung up by their feet and relieved of their heads. Only it can't be pinned on Desolation because he's still right there in the cell where he ought to be. Turns out the whole place has been overrun by space zombies who like to mutilate their flesh and file their teeth while shaking their groove things to Anthrax guitar riffs. This makes the job of law enforcement just a hair more difficult forcing Lieutenant Melanie Ballard (Henstridge) to join forces with Desolation and his merry men in order to close the curtain on Big Daddy Mars' dance party that seems as though it will never ever end. CineSchlockers will remember that Jason Statham, who plays horndog Sergeant Jericho, was MUCH more interesting in a marginally better flick called Turn It Up, which also featured rap stars.
Notables: No breasts. More than 176 corpses. Pill popping. Neck slashing. Spirit puking. Multiple hallucinations. Kung fu fighting. Firesuit stunt. Two-fisted gun shooting. Heads tumble.
Quotables: Pam rallies her troops, "I want y'all jack-ready and double tough!" Lieutenant Ballard sounds like a fun gal to party with, "Friday night the place should be packed. I mean a whole 12 hours before sun up with money to burn, whores to f@#% and drugs to take! Instead we've got a graveyard."
Time codes: B-favorite Peter Jason drives the choo-choo (8:15). Finally, Mr. Cube joins the picture (22:00). Goth kids X-in' out of their minds rave on Mars (36:50). Maybe the best moment of the flick (51:10). A completely absurd call to action (1:17:05). Nearest we get to seeing Natasha nekkid (1:31:20).
Audio/Video: The widescreen (2.35:1) transfer maintains a consistent level of quality even during the night scenes and Martian dust storms that could have easily exhibited digital grain. A fullframe version is also provided for the narrow minded. The excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 track rat-a-tat-tats during the gun battles while also keeping consistent dialogue levels. They Live fans should pay particular mind to Carpenter's score.
Extras: Chummy commentary with Carpenter and Henstridge that has the casual feel of friends thumbing through vacation photos. Hang in until the credits, when Carpenter eventually gets around to issuing a few noteworthy soundbites on his filmmaking philosophy. There's about 30 minutes of pretty raw footage divided between special effects, set lurking and the scoring session. Static menus without audio. Filmographies. Single-page chapter list insert.
Final thought: An arduous movie experience that somehow fails to even be amusingly bad. The commentary eeks this disc to a higher rating. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.