Ghosts of Mars (2001)

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10 Remarkable Things About John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars

Ghosts Of Mars may have been one of John Carpenter's lesser works, but that doesn't mean there aren't lots of remarkable things about it...

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Filmmaker John Carpenter isn’t just a respected genre director. He’s the screenwriter, producer, director and musician behind some of the greatest science fiction, horror and action films ever made, including  Dark Star, Assault On Precinct 13, Halloween, The Thing  and  Escape From New York.  Even his films that weren’t big hits at the time, such as  Starman, Big Trouble In Little China  and  They Liv e, have since been embraced as cult gems.

Ghosts Of Mars,  meanwhile, came out in 2001, a point in Carpenter’s career where he admitted that he’d “burned out”  creatively. A sci-fi horror mash-up about cops and criminals under siege from an army of Martian-possessed people, it sounded on paper like it should have everything going for it – which we’ll cover very soon – but somehow, none of it gelled into a satisfying whole. The movie made only half of its $14million budget back at the box office, and it marked Carpenter’s temporary retirement from feature filmmaking.

But while  Ghosts Of Mars  is one of Carpenter’s lesser films, critically and financially (its aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes is 21%, if that’s any indication), that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of remarkable things to write about this oft-maligned film.

10. The cast is full of geektastic actors

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The star of the movie, though, is Natasha Henstridge ( Species, Maximum Risk ) as Lieutenant Melanie Ballard. She leads an expedition to a remote mining outpost called Shining Canyon to take captured criminal Desolation Williams from a jail and back to justice. Unfortunately, Ballard, flanked by Grier’s Braddock and Statham’s Jericho, discovers the once bustling outpost has become a silent ghost town. And on closer inspection, they also find out that Desolation might not be the most deadly entity still waiting for them there…

If the roster of actors above sounds eclectic, then bear in mind that it could have been even more unusual if the casting had gone to plan. Carpenter had originally intended rock musician Courtney Love to star as Ballard, but she had to bow out when her foot was run over by the ex-wife of her then-boyfriend.

Love probably would have been quite good in the role, given that she’d turned in some great performances at the time in films like  The People Vs Larry Flint  and  Man On The Moon;  certainly, her rock-and-roll image would have been a logical fit with  Ghosts Of Mars’  rough, heavy-metal aesthetic. Unfortunately, an interfering Volvo made that impossible, and so Henstridge it was.

9. It was shot in a New Mexico quarry

Like so many science fiction films and TV shows,  Ghosts Of Mars  resorted to some rather lo-fi means of recreating the look of an alien planet. In this case, a gypsum mine on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico were pressed into service as Mars. The problem, though, was that the natural cover of the mine’s rocks didn’t look especially Martian, so gallons of food colouring had to be used to stain them red.

Although some of the efforts to convince us that we’re looking at a settlement on Mars aren’t bad – some of the interior sets are quite good, as are the miniature effects used to create an armoured Martian train – it has to be said that the exterior shots really do look like they’ve been shot in the middle of a terrestrial colony at night. Fortunately, the landscape will soon be covered in far too many severed limbs to notice too much.

8. It’s a compendium of John Carpenter’s favourite things

When you analyse  Ghosts Of Mars  element by element, it’s a bit of a shame it didn’t come off as a better enterprise than it did. For one thing, it’s full of all the pet things that Carpenter appeared to enjoy exploring in his other movies – in fact, it almost reads like a compression of all his earlier films into a single story.

Its Western underpinnings and siege finale are straight out of  Assault On Precinct 13,  as are its wise-talking convicts and tough cops. Its themes of bodily invasion and possession bear echoes of  The Thing.  Even its army of demon-possessed miners has a precedent somewhere else, since they look vaguely like the creepy marauders in  Prince Of Darkness,  right down to their leader, whose long hair, pale skin and black eye make-up recall the look of Alice Cooper’s cameo in that earlier film.

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Somehow, though, Carpenter never quite gets a rein on all of this stuff in the way he did in those earlier movies. The numerous scenes of gunplay lack the intensity and impact of  Assault , and the sense of horror is undercut by a distractingly noisy metal soundtrack, which includes wailing guitar contributions from such fret-worrying gods as Steve Vai, and Robin Finck.

7. Loads and loads of people are decapitated

We later learn that scientific prodding at some ancient burial sites have disturbed the spirits of long-dead Martians, and that they’re now using human bodies as hosts. These demon-possessed humans are now hell-bent on exterminating the rest of the settlers on Mars, who they see as invaders. For some reason, they seem to take great pleasure in decapitating and lopping the arms and legs off everyone they see, either with improvised swords or these patented frisbee-type things they’ve invaded.

Poor old Pam Grier’s barely given a chance to utter two lines before her head’s mounted on a spike – though she does get to proclaim her undying love for Natasha Henstridge – and before the final credits have rolled, just about every cult actor listed in that first entry above has lost their head in some way or another.  Ghosts Of Mars  isn’t the best film of the 2000s, but it’s certainly the most head-choppy.

6. Statham spends much of the film unlocking doors and describing rooms

Back in 2001, Jason Statham was still fresh from his early turns in  Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels  and  Snatch , and  Ghosts Of Mars  was his second US acting gig after the hip-hopping drama,  Turn It Up.  Statham was originally set to play Desolation Williams, the convict role occupied by the pouting Ice Cube in the finished film, but he was nudged over into the slightly smaller role of Sergeant Jericho instead.

Coming at a time before we knew him as the oiled-up martial arts star of things like  Crank  and  The Transporter,  Statham’s given an awkward sort of role here. It’s established early in the film that Mars is a matriarchal society in the 22nd century, but this doesn’t stop Jericho from flirting and making suggestive comments to Henstridge’s Melanie Ballard throughout, and the fighting he does get to do is the semi-improvised, Adam-West-as-Batman sort of fighting, rather than the more technical stuff he’d do with Jet Li in  The One  later that year.

Jericho’s also the undisputed master of the understatement. Having discovered Pam Grier’s head on a spike, and looking over the edge of the quarry and seeing hundreds of demon-possessed people baying at the moon for blood, he mumbles into his radio, “Lieutenant, I think we’ve got a situation here…”

5. It’s another John Carpenter film with a tough guy in a black sleeveless shirt

One of the motifs that show up now and again in Carpenter’s films is the tough guy in a black sleeveless shirt.  Assault On Precinct  had one, and he was a thoroughly nasty individual who shot a little girl and got blood on her ice-cream.

Snake Plissken wore one in the marvellous  Escape From New York,  and you could tell he was tough, because he was played by Kurt Russell. 

In fact, it’s possible that someone wears a black sleeveless shirt in every John Carpenter film, it’s just that you can’t see them because they’re covered up by a cardigan or cagoule. At any rate, the lucky man who gets to wear one this time is Ice Cube, and he’s certainly tough in this film, with all his swearing, pouting and gun firing. It’s possible that Carpenter awarded Mr Cube with the shirt to make up for saddling him with the name Desolation Williams.

4. People keep shooting demons even though they shouldn’t

Unless we’re severely mistaken (and it’s possible we are – it’s happened before), there’s a bit of a plot fault in  Ghosts Of Mars.  It’s established quite quickly that if a possessed human’s shot, the ghost inside it will leave that body and immediately go in search of another. In other words, gunning down these ghouls leaves the shooter more open to being possessed than if they’d left their firearm in its holster.

None of this perturbs the good guys in  Ghosts Of Mars  too much, who merrily run around blasting long-haired miners as though bullets are on sale at Walmart. Wouldn’t they be better off just shooting the monsters in the arms and legs instead, so they can’t run around throwing deadly frisbees at everyone?

Ice Cube’s character even tries to address this plot point directly in the final act. “You know when we kill one of them,” Desolation asks Ballard, “whatever’s inside’s gonna come after us?”

“I know,” Ballard agrees, “so if one of us gets possessed…”

Here, the scene sort of trails off; Ice Cube mumbles something in response, but it’s entirely inaudible. Within a few seconds, they’re cheerfully shooting ghouls in the head again.

3. Drugs repel demons

Tough lawman though she is, Ballard isn’t entirely squeaky-clean. Around her neck, in a little silver box marked with a Celtic knot, she carries a few unidentified pills, which she pops now and again when she’s feeling a bit low. They obviously have some kind of shamanic, trippy effect, because pictures of the sea are superimposed over her ecstatic face when she takes one.

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Although this seems like a throwaway plot point at first, it circles back around later. When Ballard is suddenly possessed by a demon (because someone shot a nearby Martian ghoul, obviously), all seems lost until Jericho has the bright idea of sticking a pill in her mouth to see what happens.

Ballard has another drug trip, in which she sees the ancient Martians in their ugly,  John Carter -like original form, and then the demon is suddenly expelled from her mouth like a blast of bad breath. Now, this discovery seems so miraculous that we thought the rest of the cast would immediately start popping Ballard’s pills, and then merrily gunning down monsters in a chemical-fuelled haze, now immune from demon possession.

Instead, the whole matter’s quietly dropped, which, when you consider the events that take place later in the film, is a bit weird…

2. There’s a flashback within a flashback within a flashback

When Ghosts Of Mars begins, Ballard’s found alone on the train, and the rest of the film’s violent events are a flashback, as Ballard recounts her sorry tale to some sort of tribunal. But in a nod to the narrative complexity of the gothic novel  Wuthering Heights, Ghosts Of Mars  doesn’t stop there.

During the bit where we see the demonic events unfold at Shining Canyon – that is, the main bulk of the film – Statham’s Sergeant Jericho shows up at the colony’s main building with three extra survivors. “Where the hell did you find these?” Ballard asks.

As Jericho explains, he gets a flashback of his own, where we see him exploring a shed shortly after finding Pam Grier’s head on a spike, and discovers the three survivors within it. He then has a bit of a conversation with them, in which he asks them what happened to the colony. This then triggers a further flashback from the survivor’s perspective, as he describes seeing the demons possess the bodies of miners, and all the bloody things that happened next.

What we have here, then, is a flashback within a flashback within a flashback. Inception, eat your heart out.

1. It constantly spoils its own surprises

Flashbacks are nothing new in movies, and if they’re used carefully, they can be quite effective. The original  Invasion Of The Body Snatchers  has one, largely to avoid an originally intended bleak ending, but it’s inconspicuous enough that you almost forget that it exists.  The same’s true of Brian De Palma’s  Carlito’s Way.

In  Ghosts Of Mars,  though, you’re constantly being reminded that what you’re seeing is a flashback, because the story keeps cutting back to Ballard recounting her tale to the tribunal after all that’s happened. This makes Carpenter’s film relatively unusual, in that it’s essentially providing spoilers for itself before every major event.

Even towards the end, where Ballard and her crew have a chance to escape on their armoured train but decide to set off an explosion to get rid of the demons, the film cuts back to Ballard sitting in a chair and saying, “It was a simple plan. The only problem was it didn’t work how it was supposed to.”

Well, thanks for spoiling the surprise, Henstridge. Unfortunately, the gigantic explosion didn’t kill the demons, and the end of the film hints at a potential sequel: a gigantic demonic invasion hits Mars’ main city, and we see Desolation Williams and Ballard head off to war with their shiny machine guns.

Had  Ghosts Of Mars  been a hit, the sequel probably would have seen Desolation and Ballard high on anti-demon pills, and furthering the spread of possession by cheerfully shooting every human in their way.

Ryan Lambie

Ryan Lambie

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John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars

2001, Sci-fi/Horror, 1h 37m

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Critics Consensus

John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars is not one of Carpenter's better movies, filled as it is with bad dialogue, bad acting, confusing flashbacks, and scenes that are more campy than scary. Read critic reviews

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John carpenter's ghosts of mars videos, john carpenter's ghosts of mars   photos.

Long inhabited by human settlers, the Red Planet has become the manifest destiny of an over-populated Earth. Nearly 640,000 people now live and work all over Mars, mining the planet for its abundant natural resources. But one of those mining operations has uncovered a deadly mother lode: a long-dormant Martian civilization whose warriors are systematically taking over the bodies of human intruders.

Rating: R (Some Drug Content|Language|Strong Gore|Strong Violence)

Genre: Sci-fi, Horror, Mystery & thriller

Original Language: English

Director: John Carpenter

Producer: Sandy King

Writer: John Carpenter , Larry Sulkis

Release Date (Theaters): Aug 24, 2001  wide

Release Date (Streaming): Apr 27, 2013

Box Office (Gross USA): $8.4M

Runtime: 1h 37m

Distributor: Screen Gems

Production Co: Screen Gems, Storm King Productions

Sound Mix: Dolby SR, DTS, Dolby Stereo, Surround, SDDS, Dolby A, Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio: Scope (2.35:1)

Cast & Crew

James "Desolation" Williams

Natasha Henstridge

Melanie Ballard

Jason Statham

Jericho Butler

Clea Duvall

Bashira Kincaid

Helena Braddock

Joanna Cassidy

Richard Cetrone

Big Daddy Mars

Rosemary Forsyth

Michael Descanso

Duane Davis

John Carpenter

Larry Sulkis

Gary B. Kibbe

Cinematographer

William A. Elliott

Production Design

Paul Warschilka

Film Editing

Robin Michel Bush

Costume Design

Reuben Cannon

Lance Wilhoite

Visual Effects Supervisor

Original Music

Robert Kurtzman

Special Makeup Effects Artist

Greg Nicotero

Howard Berger

News & Interviews for John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars

Disney Signs On with "John Carter of Mars"

Check Out the "Departed" Poster

John Carpenter to Return to Directing with "Apostle"

Critic Reviews for John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars

Audience reviews for john carpenter's ghosts of mars.

Nothing redeeming about this movie -- poor story, writing, acting and special effects.

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This is a John Carpenter movie? Well its not one of his best, not by a long shot. A Martian virus infects the Earth colonists and makes them go like Viking berserker kray-kray. Its told in flashback, and sometimes there's flashbacks in flashbacks, and then yet more again. You forget where you are in all of the tizzy. And most of the dialogue is delivered as if everyone onscreen thought they were Clint Eastwood in a Sergio Leone Western. It gets a little motononous. Its a peanut butter w/o jelly sandwich.

[img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon13.gif[/img]

Yep back near the millennium there was a bit of a Mars movie rush. Alongside a couple other action thrillers earlier in 2000 this horror thriller was obviously a more fantasy based trip to the red planet courtesy of John Carpenter. You know its Carpenter straight away with most of his films but this was different. For a start the soundtrack was a lot of actual heavy metal performers playing pieces created by Carpenter. So yes the tunes are all Carpenters work as usual but it just didn't have the cool quirky simple electronic vibes you associate with his films. The heavy metal stuff just feels too errr...heavy for what the film is, it tries to force the action and gore upon you with loud thrashing music which just seems childish really. Naturally with Carpenter it looks cheap, everything is normally basic but created well with clever lighting, camera angles and editing. In this there is none of that craftsmanship, it really does feel as if John has sold out and given us a loud cliched straight to DVD action flick with no real thought or imagination. Everything also looks really really poor, terrible sets, terrible effects and makeup work and why are the good guys all wearing ski masks?. You can virtually see the edge of the sets half the time, we are talking TV movie standards here people!. The plot is completely lame lets be honest, in fact it just feels like 'The Fog' but set on Mars or in space. That red dusty alien spirit cloud that goes around infecting the miners? come on John!. On top of that its all just a basic crappy zombie-ish horror theme. Humans are turned into mindless zombies that like to mutilate themselves and cut peoples heads off, errr gee...like wow!. Its a shame because the cast is pretty cool with good names. A very young slim looking Statham with a bit of fuzz left on his bonce, Grier who is always sultry n sexy (why does she have to buy the farm so soon John!?) and Henstridge does add a 'Ripley-ish' current but personally I would of cast someone else. Yes 'Ice Cube' is there too being ridiculously over the top trying to make us all think he's a rough tough gangsta' in space, when will you grow up and use your real name Jesus!. All together this really does feel like a rehash of previous thrillers 'The Fog' and 'Assault on Precinct 13' all mixed into one. Completely inept in every area, very cheap looking and totally un-thrilling in any way, how Carpenter produced such a generic piece of crapola like this I don't know. You only have to look at the space zombie bad guys to see how poor it is, looks like the makeup was applied by themselves and thought up by teenagers.

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John Carpenter's "Ghosts of Mars" is a brawny space opera, transplanting the conventions of Western, cop and martial arts films to the Red Planet. As waves of zombified killers attack the heroes, actions scenes become shooting galleries, and darned if in the year 2176 they aren't still hurling sticks of dynamite from moving trains. All basic stuff, and yet Carpenter brings pacing and style to it, and Natasha Henstridge provides a cool-headed center.

As the film opens, a ghost train pulls into Chryse City, so named for a flat plain north of the Martian equator. No driver is at the helm, and only one passenger is on board. She is Melanie Ballard (Henstridge), a cop who headed a detail to an outlying mining town named Shining Canyon to bring back a killer named Desolation Williams ( Ice Cube ). Called up before a tribunal in the matriarchal Martian society, she tells her story, and most of the action is in flashback.

The mining camp seems empty when the cops arrive. Henstridge is joined by Helena ( Pam Grier ), Bashira ( Clea Duvall ), Jericho ( Jason Statham ) and Uno (Duane Davis). They start finding bodies. Desolation is still in jail, proving he could not be the killer, and eventually a survivor named Whitlock ( Joanna Cassidy ) tells the story of how the miners found the entrance to a long-buried tunnel. It led to a door which, when merely touched, crumbled into dust and released, yes, the ghosts of Mars. They possessed humans and turned them into killing machines, to take, she says, "vengeance on anyone who tries to lay claim to their planet." That's the setup. The payoff is a series of well-staged action sequences, made atmospheric by the rusty red atmosphere which colors everything. At one point the cops barricade themselves inside the mining camp's police station, which will remind Carpenter fans of his first feature, " Assault on Precinct 13 ." There is also something about the ghoulish way the possessed miners lurch into action that has a touch of the Living Dead movies.

These ghouls or zombies or ghost-creatures are not, however, slow.

They're pretty fast in the martial arts scenes, especially their leader, Big Daddy Mars (Richard Cetrone). But like all similar movie creatures, they're just a little slower than the heroes. They keep coming but never quite catch up.

Natasha Henstridge has come full circle. Her movie career began in " Species " (1995), where she played "Sil," an alien who looked like Natasha Henstridge part of the time, and like gloppy puke-monsters the rest of the time. Now she's fighting the aliens, and for most of the movie is partnered with Desolation, played by Mr. Cube with solid authority.

"Ghosts of Mars" delivers on its chosen level and I enjoyed it, but I wonder why so many science-fiction films turn into extended exercises in Blast the Aliens. " Starship Troopers " was another. Why must aliens automatically be violent, angry, aggressive, ugly, mindless and hostile? How could they develop the technology to preserve their spirits for aeons, and exhibit no civilized attributes? And, for that matter, if Earth-creatures came along after, oh, say, 300 million years of captivity and set you free, would you be mad at them? These are all questions for another movie. This one does have one original touch. After Melanie is possessed by a ghost, Desolation administers a fix from her stash, and the drug, whatever it is, inspires the alien to get out of her body fast. It is encouraging to learn that the ancient races of our solar system learned to just say no to drugs.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Rated R For Strong Violence/Gore, Language and Some Drug Content

Ice Cube as Desolation Williams

Natasha Henstridge as Melanie Ballard

Jason Statham as Jericho Butler

Clea Duvall as Bashira Kincaid

Pam Grier as Helena

Joanna Cassidy as Whitlock

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Ghosts of Mars (2001)

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Ghosts of Mars  is a 2001 American science fiction horror movie written, directed and scored by  John Carpenter . 

  • 3 Production
  • 4 Reception
  • 5 External links

Argument [ ]

It is set in Mars in the year 2176. Mars has been colonized and it has been terraformed by 84%, allowing humans to walk on the surface without pressure suits. Partial breathers, however are still necessary. The human colony there is also matriarchal.

The story is about police officer Lt. Melanie Ballard, who is sent with a team of policemen to a remote mining outpost at night in order to transport prisoner James 'Desolation' Williams, who has been arrested for several murders. Arriving at the remote mining town, Ballard and her team find all of the people missing despite of the fact, that it is a Friday night. They investigate and, in time, they discover that part of them have been murdered. They have been hung and decapitated. She also discovers, that another part of them have become savages, who killed the murdered ones and also intended to kill all of them, too. Only a few are still alive there.

After the murder of the team leader Helena Braddock, Ballard has to take her place. She learns from a survivor that the miners in the outpost had discovered an underground doorway created by an ancient Martian civilization. When the door was opened, it released disembodied spirits or "ghosts", which took possession many of the miners, who now behave savagely and begin to kill everyone else, because they see them as an invading species that has to be wiped out so that the planet will be theirs again.

She allies herself with the criminals there under the leadership of Williams, who turns out to be innocent of the murders, to survive. To worsen things more, if they kill one of them, the ghost will leave the body and posess another human. Ballard casually manages to find a way to fight them by casually taking a drug, which enables her to be immune to them and even find out their intentions.

Only she and Williams survive the fight and ignite the nuclear powerplant there to go critical, turning it into a small atomic bomb in the hopes of preventing them to kill everyone else on this planet. Not wanting to be blamed for the massacre, Williams later handcuffs Ballard to her cot and escapes from the train on the way to the capital which she reaches.

After that she reports what happened to her superiors, but noone believes her. Later it turns out that the quest to stop the ghosts has failed. They now attack the capital and Williams and Ballard join forces again to survive.

  • Ice Cube as James 'Desolation' Williams
  • Natasha Henstridge as Lieutenant Melanie Ballard
  • Jason Statham as Jericho Butler
  • Clea Duvall as Bashira Kincaid
  • Pam Grier as Helena Braddock
  • Joanna Cassidy as Whitlock
  • Richard Cetrone as Big Daddy Mars
  • Liam Whaite as Michael Descanso
  • Duane Davis as Uno

Production [ ]

The script originally started off as a potential Snake Plissken sequel. The title was  Escape from Mars. The story would have been largely much the same; however, after  Escape from L.A.  failed to make much money at the box office, the studio did not wish to make another Plissken movie. The character Snake Plissken was therefore changed to "Desolation Williams," and the studio also insisted that Ice Cube be given the part.

Natasha Henstridge replaced Courtney Love (the original choice) in her role at the last minute, because the ex-wife of her boyfriend ran over her foot in her car while she was in training for the motion picture. The actresses Michelle Yeoh, Franka Potente and Famke Janssen were also briefly considered for that role. 

The filming began on 8. August 2000 and ended on 31. October 2000.

Reception [ ]

The movie was a box office failure and received mostly negative reviews. Because of that, John Carpenter left the business of filmmaking for several years.

External links [ ]

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John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars (2001) | Behind the Scenes

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Home entertainment information, news and reviews since 1997, ghosts of mars.

Reviewed on November 30, 2001 by Guido Henkel in DVD , Reviews // 0 Comments

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Every time cult director John Carpenter is releasing a new movie, horror fans are feverishly awaiting the results. In the past, the director has delivered a number of memorable movie and horror moments and with his latest project, "Ghosts Of Mars" fans were expecting no less. Sadly, the film did very poorly at the box office, but in order to give it a higher profile, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has prepared a Special Edition DVD for this film. Let’s see how it all turned out.

A train on auto-pilot approaches a station in a Mars colony and comes to a stop. It is empty, except one person. Lieutenant Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge), a police officer, who was part of a squad that was sent out to a mine to apprehend James "Desolation" Williams (Ice Cube) who had been arrested on counts of murder.

In front of a hearing, Ballard is retelling the events of the past days, the story of the squad arriving at the mines, where they found that something strange was going on. All the inhabitants of the city had been turned into an army of zombies. A spirit that was buried in the soil of the Red Planet was unleashed and uses the human bodies as hosts for only one goal. Eradicate all intruders! A fight for survival ensues, as the squad and their prisoner try to escape the city before the monstrous creatures can catch up with them.

The thing that is probably the most surprising about "Ghosts Of Mars" is the fact how modern the entire film feels. The editing, the visual style, the costumes and the dialogue, all feels very contemporary, and considering that John Carpenter is not in his 20s any more, I think it proves just how in touch this director really is with movies. On the downside however, "Ghosts Of Mars" is hardly what you would call "Fresh." If I had to describe the movie in a word, I’d call it "The Thing 2001." The body-invasion/possession theme can be found throughout Carpenters body of work. Whether it’s the "They Live," "Prince Of Darkness," "Vampires," "Village of the Damned," "The Thing," or "Christine," the theme can be found in literally all of his movies in some way or another. In "Ghosts Of Mars" now we have yet another story in the same vein and it soon becomes evident that the movie is a hotchpotch of elements from many of his own films, as well as others. When watching the film you will find yourself reminded of "The Thing," "Alien," "Prince Of Darkness," "Dawn of the Dead" and many others. The movie somehow lacks its own identity.

The movie’s camera work and production design is also very contemporary. The Martians do look like they leaped off a 90s music video – Rob Zombie and Marilyn Mansion look-alikes are all over – enhancing the modern feel of the film. Sadly, that is the disappointment of the movie. In the past, Carpenter was able to create memorable images, that stay in viewers’ minds for a long time. There are no such signature shots in "Ghosts Of Mars" and they are sorely missed. The film just breezes by without the striking visuals we’ve come to expect from one of horror’s greatest directors. In the course of it, the film also feels a bit shallow and it never manages to build the suspense and terror of Carpenter’s classic films. With its frantic pacing, the film just doesn’t have enough atmosphere to really scare.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is bringing us "Ghosts Of Mars" in an presentation on this DVD in the movie’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, as well as a cropped version. The transfer is very clean and entirely free of defects. The transfer nicely reproduces the camera work of the movie, which still carries Carpenter’s unique signature in many shots, and reveals a good level of detail. In a few shots, the image appeared to become a little blurry, especially when heavy camera movement was involved and a bit of edge-enhancement is evident in a number of shots. In general the transfer seems a bit soft but never distractingly so. It is a result of the technical limitations of today’s TV signal format when handling red signals and since the majority of the movie is bathed in red – whether its’ the Mars settings or the blood of the victims – it is truly taxing any video format. Colors are nicely reproduced with very natural-looking colors and flesh tones. Blacks are deep and give the image the depth they need without ever losing detail. The compression has been done well without introducing distracting artifacts.

The disc comes with only one audio track, but that’s a powerful mix, and subtitles in English and French. The audio track is very energetic and dynamic, making very aggressive use of the surround channels. It is hardly surprising since "Ghosts Of Mars" is a new movie and John Carpenter has always been a very sonically conscious director. The surrounds are very active throughout the entire film, creating a wide sound field in the front and rear, and some great effects bring out the best of the multi-channel format. The track has a very wide frequency response with plenty of punch and a great low-end extension. Basses are rock solid and the high ends are always clear and free of distortion. Carpenter has once again contributed to the core of the movie and the heavy industrial style metal score is perfectly for this movie.

"Ghosts Of Mars" features a by director John Carpenter and actress Natasha Henstridge. Especially Carpenter appears very relaxed and is quite talkative during the commentary, sharing thoughts, and anecdotes about the production, as well as some more technically information. Natasha Henstridge is also quite talkative and together they manage to have a very active flow of information with Carpenter often serving as a moderator and interviewer for his star. It is a commentary approach he used on various occasions before and one that typically works quite well as it presents us with a fairly animated conversation at all times that is however not always directly related to the images on the screen.

A video diary is also part of the release, called "Red Desert Nights." It is a very well-put together home video featurette covering the shooting of the film. Free of the typical talking heads of promotional making-of featurettes, this is a refreshing look behind the scenes of the movie with footage that was taken, just as things went along. It includes rehearsal footage, preparations, conversations on the set, and other stuff, and in general captures the ambiance of the set very nicely.

Another featurette focuses on the special effects of the movie, revealing many of the effects shot in the film and explaining in more detail how they were achieved. From miniature shoots to green screen acting, this 6-minute featurette is a nice addition to the disc.

"Scoring Ghosts Of Mars" is another featurette, which takes viewers into the recording studios as Steve Vai, Anthrax and Buckethead record the score for the movie that was written by John Carpenter. It is a nice and much-too-rare look at an aspect of filmmaking that is often overlooked.

The DVD is rounded out by cast and crew filmographies, which sadly do not include biographies.

Despite my criticism above, I do want to point out that I found "Ghosts Of Mars" to be entertaining and enjoyable. Despite its flaws, the movie is engaging enough to keep viewers interested in what’s going to happen next and to learn how Lieutenant Ballard survived the carnage. The film has a certain cool-factor that clearly sets it apart from the current crop of mindless teenage horror flicks and it has been a long while since we’ve seen a horde of visceral creatures like here. Carpenter is still not back to his old form, but "Ghosts Of Mars" is nonetheless an entertaining movie. The features on the DVD add some more depth to the film, so give it a try!

  • Joanna Cassidy
  • Natasha Henstridge

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The following weapons were used in the film Ghosts of Mars :

  • 1.1 Beretta 92FS Inox
  • 1.2 Beretta 92FS Two Tone
  • 1.3 Beretta 92FS
  • 1.4 SIG-Sauer P228 (Customized)
  • 1.5 IMI Jericho 941 R
  • 1.6 M1911A1 (nickel)
  • 2.1 Heckler & Koch MP5K-PDW
  • 2.2 Franchi LF-57
  • 3.1 Franchi SPAS-12
  • 3.2 Valtro PM5 (Custom)
  • 3.3 Remington 870 (Custom)
  • 3.4 Remington 870 (Short Barrel)
  • 3.5 Heckler & Koch FABARM FP6 Shotgun
  • 4.1 Heckler & Koch G36K

Beretta 92FS Inox

The Beretta 92FS Inox is the sidearm carried by Lt. Melanie Ballard ( Natasha Henstridge ) throughout the movie.

ghosts of mars images

Beretta 92FS Two Tone

The Beretta 92FS with a two-tone slide is carried by rookie cop Bashira Kincaid ( Clea DuVall ).

ghosts of mars images

Beretta 92FS

A Beretta 92FS is taken off a possessed prisoner and then is seen in the hands of another one during the final shootout.

ghosts of mars images

SIG-Sauer P228 (Customized)

Michael Descanso ( Liam Waite ) carries a two-tone SIG-Sauer P228 with a black added on compensator as his sidearm. This also appears to be the sidearm of Sgt. Jericho Butler ( Jason Statham ). These custom pistols appear to be the same ones that were originally modified for the 1995 film Virtuosity .

ghosts of mars images

IMI Jericho 941 R

A stainless Jericho 941 R is carried by Tres ( Rodney A. Grant ) in the film. This pistol also is seen in the hands of Williams ( Ice Cube ).

ghosts of mars images

M1911A1 (nickel)

Two nickel M1911A1s can be briefly seen being held by Dos ( Lobo Sebastian ) during the attempt to rescue James 'Desolation' Williams.

ghosts of mars images

Submachine Guns

Heckler & koch mp5k-pdw.

James 'Desolation' Williams ( Ice Cube ) uses two Heckler & Koch MP5K-PDWs with the stock folded in the final shootout.

ghosts of mars images

Franchi LF-57

Near the end of the film, James 'Desolation' Williams ( Ice Cube ) and Lt. Melanie Ballard ( Natasha Henstridge ) can be seen holding nickel Franchi LF-57s . These were the semiautomatic civilian guns that were imported into the U.S. starting in 1962. The ones in the film were converted to full auto fire prior to the MG ban of 1986. These submachine guns appear to be the ones previously seen in the 1998 film Soldier .

ghosts of mars images

Franchi SPAS-12

Commander Helena Braddock ( Pam Grier ) carries the Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun in the initial scenes of the movie. She only fires it in an attempt to open a jeep's door. In the final shootout with the infected, the Franchi is used by Officer Bashira Kincaid (Clea DuVall) and James 'Desolation' Williams ( Ice Cube ).

ghosts of mars images

Valtro PM5 (Custom)

The Valtro PM5 Shotgun is used by members of the Mars Police including Lt. Melanie Ballard ( Natasha Henstridge ), Bashira Kincaid ( Clea DuVall ) and Michael Descanso ( Liam Waite ). James 'Desolation' Williams also holds the shotgun. These shotguns have a pistol grip, a muzzle brake attached, some sort of spear protruding beneath the muzzle, and a cylinder and tube fitted on top of the receiver and barrel (possibly an early laser sight), as well as a pump-fixed C-More red dot sight above it. These shotguns appeared previously in the 1998 film Soldier .

ghosts of mars images

Remington 870 (Custom)

A pistol-gripped Remington 870 fitted with a TacStar vertical foregrip, heatshield, and side-saddle spare shell holder is carried by Dr. Arlene Whitlock ( Joanna Cassidy ) in the final shootout. This 870 is an identical configuration to the one seen in the film Natural Born Killers (possibly the same weapon).

ghosts of mars images

Remington 870 (Short Barrel)

A custom Remington 870 is seen in the hands of Uno ( Duane Davis ) and by James 'Desolation' Williams. The shotgun has a shortened barrel and also a pistol grip.

ghosts of mars images

Heckler & Koch FABARM FP6 Shotgun

A few Heckler & Koch FABARM FP6 shotguns are prepared for for the final assault. The shotgun is mainly wielded by Akooshay ( Wanda De Jesus ).

ghosts of mars images

Heckler & Koch G36K

A Heckler & Koch G36K is carried by Sgt. Jericho Butler ( Jason Statham ) throughout the movie. He also uses the rifle stock to fight off the ghosts.

ghosts of mars images

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Smithsonian Magazine

What Does a Solar Eclipse on Mars Look Like? New, Breathtaking Images, Caught by NASA's Perseverance Rover, Give Us an Idea

A s sky watchers here in North America prepare for April’s total solar eclipse , NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars has observed two breathtaking solar eclipses of its own from the Red Planet's  Jezero Crater .

Earth-based observers are fortunate enough to witness our own moon eclipse the sun entirely, but Mars isn’t quite so lucky—its two moons, Phobos and Deimos, are too small to ever fully blot out the star’s light.

These less-than-complete eclipses, also known as transits, are still rather stunning, as recently released NASA images show. And these phenomena can provide valuable information to scientists looking to study the moons’ orbits or even Mars' surface.

Phobos casts a shadow

Mars’ larger moon, the potato-shaped rock called Phobos, eclipsed the sun on February 8. Perseverance captured a series of images depicting the moon’s transit, which took just about 30 seconds in total.

Phobos orbits Mars three times per day from a low distance of about 3,700 miles . (For comparison, Earth’s moon is 238,900 miles away .) The misshapen Phobos measures roughly 17 by 14 by 11 miles across.

During a Phobos-caused solar eclipse, sunlight intensity on Mars might drop by up to a quarter . Looking skyward, the Perseverance rover observed the event as a lumpy shadow moving across the sun.

Phobos is covered by a fine dust that doesn’t retain heat well—temperatures on the cold world range from “a pleasant winter day in Chicago” in the sunlight, to “more harsh than a night in Antarctica” in the dark, per NASA .

Slowly, Phobos is spiraling toward Mars—and the doomed moon is on a collision course with the planet. Every 100 years, Phobos moves about six feet closer to its host, meaning that it will either crash some 50 million years from now or break up into pieces that would form a ring around Mars.

Deimos transits across the sun

Perseverance also caught Deimos passing by the sun—but the tinier and more distant moon appears very different during its transit. On January 20, the diminutive satellite made its way across the star in the Martian sky over the course of several minutes.

A transit of Deimos also doesn’t look like a solar eclipse on Earth. Instead, it more closely resembles what terrestrial astronomers experience during a transit of Venus —an extremely rare event on Earth when our sister planet passes across the sun’s surface as a black dot.

Deimos is just 9 by 7 by 6.8 miles in size and is farther from Mars than Phobos, orbiting once every 30 hours at a distance of 14,500 miles .

The moon is gradually straying away from its host; in contrast to the dramatic collision that might lie in Phobos’ future, Deimos’ fate is to eventually escape the gravity of Mars and drift off into space .

Martian solar eclipse science

The first rovers to observe a Martian solar eclipse were Spirit and Opportunity in 2004. NASA’s Curiosity captured the first-ever video of a solar eclipse on Mars in 2019, and following suit, Perseverance filmed the highest-quality video of a Martian eclipse to date in 2022.

Solar eclipses on Mars are neat to watch, but NASA also uses these events to glean scientific information about the planet and its moons.

Before Spirit and Opportunity, astronomers were a lot less certain about the orbits of Mars’ natural satellites. When the rovers first tried to image Deimos passing in front of the sun, scientists realized the moon was 25 miles away from where they expected it would be.

“More observations over time help pin down the details of each orbit,” Mark Lemmon , a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute, said in a statement in 2019. “Those orbits change all the time in response to the gravitational pull of Mars, Jupiter or even each Martian moon pulling on the other.”

In turn, understanding gravitational effects of the moons can hint at the composition of Mars itself.

“[Phobos’] tidal forces pull on the deep interior crust and mantle of the Red Planet,” NASA said in a 2022 statement . “Studying how much Phobos shifts over time reveals something about how resistant the crust and mantle are, and thus what kinds of materials they’re made of.”

The mysterious moons of Mars

Despite all the rovers have learned about the Martian moons, several questions remain. One glaring unknown is their origin—scientists aren’t sure where Phobos and Deimos came from .

Some experts have suggested the moons are asteroids that got captured by Mars’ gravity, while others proposed the lumpy, cratered rocks are pieces of the planet broken free by a collision long ago.

Researchers hope to have more clues about the moons’ origins in the coming years. Japan’s Martian Moon Exploration Mission is set to launch by 2026. Among other lofty science goals, the mission is intended to touch down on Phobos, collect a sample of its rock and tote it back to Earth for researchers to study.

“If the moons came from a giant impact on Mars, the resulting heat and energy should have removed most traces of water,” writes the Planetary Society . “If the moons are captured asteroids, they should have substantial water and organic materials like we find on similar small worlds.”

Currently, the sample return is set for 2031. But until then, astronomers can use Martian solar eclipses to learn more about the Red Planet—and revel in its beauty.

Phobos passes across the sun's surface on February 8, as captured by NASA's Perseverance rover.

IMAGES

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  2. "Ghosts of Mars" movie still, 2001. Ice Cube as Desolation Williams

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VIDEO

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COMMENTS

  1. Ghosts of Mars (2001)

    58 Photos Action Horror Sci-Fi In 2176, a Martian police unit is sent to pick up a highly dangerous criminal at a remote mining post. Upon arrival, the cops find that the post has become a charnel house. Director John Carpenter Writers Larry Sulkis John Carpenter Stars Natasha Henstridge Ice Cube Pam Grier See production info at IMDbPro RENT/BUY

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  3. Ghosts of Mars

    Ghosts of Mars (titled onscreen as John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars) is a 2001 American space Western [3] action horror film written, directed and scored by John Carpenter. It was produced by Screen Gems and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. The film stars Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea DuVall, and Joanna Cassidy.

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    Fortunately, the landscape will soon be covered in far too many severed limbs to notice too much. 8. It's a compendium of John Carpenter's favourite things. When you analyse Ghosts Of Mars ...

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    Movie Info. Long inhabited by human settlers, the Red Planet has become the manifest destiny of an over-populated Earth. Nearly 640,000 people now live and work all over Mars, mining the planet ...

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    John Carpenter's "Ghosts of Mars" is a brawny space opera, transplanting the conventions of Western, cop and martial arts films to the Red Planet. As waves of zombified killers attack the heroes, actions scenes become shooting galleries, and darned if in the year 2176 they aren't still hurling sticks of dynamite from moving trains. All basic stuff, and yet Carpenter brings pacing and style to ...

  11. Ghosts of Mars (2001)

    Ghosts of Mars is a 2001 American science fiction horror movie written, directed and scored by John Carpenter. It is set in Mars in the year 2176. Mars has been colonized and it has been terraformed by 84%, allowing humans to walk on the surface without pressure suits. Partial breathers, however are still necessary. The human colony there is also matriarchal. The story is about police officer ...

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    A compilation of featurettes offering a glimpse at the production of John Carpenter's 2001 sci-fi/horror film, The Ghosts of Mars. Features behind-the-scenes footage as well as a look at scoring the film with contributions from rock musicians Scott Ian, Steve Vai, and Buckethead.

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    Ghosts Of Mars (2001) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Cast: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Joanna Cassidy Extras: Commentary Track, ... In "Ghosts Of Mars" now we have yet another story in the same vein and it soon becomes evident that the movie is a hotchpotch of elements from many of his own films, as well as others. ...

  15. Ghosts of Mars

    Ghosts of Mars is an entertaining and original sci-fi flick. I cannot say I have seen something quite like it. John Carpenter has delivered another great and very underrated movie. It has great special effects, a competent cast, great action, and much entertainment value. The story is as follows. It is the year 2176. Humanity has colonized Mars.

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  17. Ghosts of Mars [Blu-ray]

    Images in this review Reviews with images. See all photos. Previous page. Next page. Submit a report. A few common reasons customers report reviews: Harassment, profanity; ... Ghosts of Mars is a decent popcorn action movie, but it's a bad movie on basically every level. If you don't mind seeing something aggressively stupid just to see some ...

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    Valtro PM5 (Custom) The Valtro PM5 Shotgun is used by members of the Mars Police including Lt. Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge), Bashira Kincaid (Clea DuVall) and Michael Descanso ().James 'Desolation' Williams also holds the shotgun. These shotguns have a pistol grip, a muzzle brake attached, some sort of spear protruding beneath the muzzle, and a cylinder and tube fitted on top of the ...

  19. Image Gallery: Perseverance Rover

    December 12, 2023. NASA's Perseverance Mars rover captured this mosaic of a location nicknamed "Castell Henllys" using its Mastcam-Z camera on April 13, 2023, the 763rd Martian day, or sol, of the mission. PIXL, one of the instruments aboard NASA's Perseverance Mars rover, analyzed the chemical makeup of an area of abraded rock dubbed ...

  20. Ghosts Of Mars: Most Up-to-Date Encyclopedia, News & Reviews

    Ghosts of Mars (titled onscreen as John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars) is a 2001 American space-western action-horror film written, directed, and scored by John Carpenter. It was produced by Screen Gems and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. The movie stars Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Claire Duvall, and Joanna Cassidy.

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  22. Ghosts of Mars [VHS]

    The setup: Pointless. Carpenter throws a ton of ideas at the wall, like apparently Mars is a matriarchal society now, but this doesn't matter at all to the plot. This movie only takes place on Mars to explain why Carpenter was filming in the desert with hilariously empty sets. The bulk of the movie takes place in 2 rooms and on one street.

  23. What Does a Solar Eclipse on Mars Look Like? New, Breathtaking Images

    Mars' larger moon, the potato-shaped rock called Phobos, eclipsed the sun on February 8. Perseverance captured a series of images depicting the moon's transit, which took just about 30 seconds ...