Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Rating: D

Dir: John Carpenter
Star: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier

Like his earlier Vampires, this is sadly another movie that makes one wonder why the director would want his name so prominently attached to it. Shapely Natasha Henstridge is Melanie Ballard, a feisty Martian copper sent out along with lesbian boss Pam Grier and a cast of other disposables to bring back James ‘Desolation’ Williams (Ice Cube), a murder suspect, from the isolated mining town of Shining Canyon. Ballard and Desolation (whose nickname is a fine metaphor for the script) soon have to put aside their differences when they discover the townsfolk have become possessed by an ancient brain fungus that turns them into cenobite-zulus.

Opening with some ropy model effects of a train, the film never really gets any better, as Carpenter revisits elements of his earlier movies in a vain attempt to turn out something new; the maddening mist of The Fog, the attack scenes from Assault on Precinct 13 and the paranoia of The Thing, all set in a ruddy gravel pit that’s supposed to be Mars, make this far less than the sum of its parts. Henstridge and Ice Cube plod through the narrative, shooting and shouting at one another while avoiding the leader of the Ghosts, an alien clone of Alice Cooper without the charisma. By the close of the film, like the train that opens it, Ghosts of Mars just grinds to a halt rather than coming up with a real ending. However, it does have one moral that should be taken to heart by impressionable teens everywhere – if you take hallucinogenic drugs, you can’t get possessed by aliens.