Forgotten Gems: Ghosts of Mars

Nerdling Tales takes a mostly spoiler free look at cult classics mostly overlooked by the public, movies that failed so hard they won, and the “what in the hell were they thinking” flicks. Join her as she reminisces about what makes these movies so interesting and full of hopeful sequel potential, and yet the general movie going population tends to forget their existence. It is October, so you know it will be all about the scares this month!

Let’s keep the Mars and space travel theme rolling (since The Martian is still doing well at the box office) with a look at Ghosts of Mars.

Released: August 24, 2001
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: Larry Sulkis and John Carpenter
Stars: 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

When you look at the resume of writer/director John Carpenter, it is pretty damn impressive. You have great horror classics such as Halloween, The Fog, In the Mouth of Madness, The Thing, and They Live. Plus there are some great action/thriller classics like Escape from New York, the original Assault on Precinct 13, and Big Trouble in Little China. But Ghosts of Mars is Carpenter’s physical manifestation of a middle finger to Hollywood and essentially retiring from movie making at that time. I’m going to be honest with you here and tell you Ghosts of Mars is a really bad movie, but it is one of those really bad movies that you have to watch just because it is funny in its terribleness.

200 years in the future, Mars has been colonized and is mostly terraformed and the inhabitants can walk around the surface without the aid of suits or masks. A group of police officers lead by Commander Helena Braddock (Greer), Lieutenant Melanie Ballard (Henstridge), and Sgt Jericho Butler (Statham) are sent from the main colony to a mining outpost to retrieve a dangerous prisoner named Desolation Williams (Cube) who is accused of killing several people. Upon arrival, the colony is deserted and many of the inhabitants have been decapitated and strung upside down. Several of the other inhabitants are mutilating themselves and hunting down anyone they can find. The cops, Desolation and his crew, and other survivors must battle their way out and not try to become infected with whatever is causing the others to kill.

Ghosts of Mars

This movie was actually supposed to be the third entry in a Snake Plissken trilogy called Escape from Mars, but after the studio failed to recuperate the budget of Escape from L.A. they decided that was no longer a viable movie franchise. Instead of giving up on this concept, Carpenter decided to make this a standalone movie with a new Plissken like character, Desolation Williams.

The dialogue is terrible along with the explanation of any sciencey stuff and delivered with that wooden, super-cereal attitude that you have to just laugh at. The moments of comedy put in the movie to cut some of the tension is just cringe worthy. The attempts to escape the police building where they are trapped is exciting and fast paced, but the CGI blood and heads getting sliced off were really bad and distracting at times. There are multiple flashbacks (in fact most of the movie is one long flashback) and some flashbacks with in flashbacks with in the flashbacks (I wonder if this is where Christopher Nolan got that idea?) which muddle the plot at times.


Henstridge looks like she is just awake enough to say her lines and hit her marks, but she is kinda like that in most all her movies. Cube does look like he is having the time of his life and helps breathe some needed energy into the movie. Statham does what he does best and oozes snarky charm while blathering out unintelligible dialogue and kicking some ass.

Yes, I know I’m not saying too many positives about Ghosts of Mars, but it is worth renting and watching with friends. Preferably snarky friends who have had a couple of drinks in them before you hit the play button. I remember catching this movie late at night a few years ago on cable and I couldn’t stop watching the train wreck. Sometimes watching a movie is not all about getting lost in a story, sometimes it is all about how much you can entertain yourself while making fun of it.

What did you guys think of Ghosts of Mars? Did John Carpenter disappoint you with this terrible/awesome sci-fi horror flick? Let me know in the comments section.

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About Nerdling

The Nerdling has an unhealthy obsession with books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars. She finds hockey to be the best sport in the world (Go Dallas Stars!) and is working on her first novel, but mostly glowers at a blank screen. You can find her on Twitter @nerdlingstale on Facebook @NerdlingTales or Instagram @nerdling_tales

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