31 Days of Guilty Pleasures – ‘Ghosts of Mars’

A few years ago I did a daily countdown to Halloween that featured some of my favorite scares from 31 different horror movies. This year I’m bringing back the feature, but this time we’re taking a look at some of my favorite guilty pleasures.

There’s no rhyme or reason to how these movies are being listed, so the placement on the countdown doesn’t denote any sort of ranking. Also, my definition of guilty pleasure is a movie that ranges from either being not very good to outright bad, but there’s something about it that still makes it endearing to watch.

With a new “Halloween” hitting theaters today I thought it would be appropriate to look back at another John Carpenter classic.  One that is very much deserving of a proper sequel, just like “Halloween.” Of course, I could only be talking about “Ghost of Mars.”

“Ghost of Mars” is set in the not too distant future of the 22nd Century.  The film is a work of science fiction, based on real hard science.  The film is centered on a mining colony on Mars where Officer Natasha Henstridge must pick up prisoner Ice Cube and transport him.  However, when she arrives at the mining camp she discovers that the miners have been possessed by evil alien spirits that they stirred up while mining.

One of the greatest things about this movies is the name of its characters.  Ice Cube’s character is named Desolation Williams and Jason Statham is named Jericho Butler.  Those are such cool guy names! Probably one of the reasons everyone is dripping with cool in this movie is because it was originally going to be another Snake Plissken movie.  Essentially it would’ve been “Escape from Mars”, but “Escape from LA” was such a bomb they decided to change the script a bit and replace Kurt Russell with Ice Cube to get additional star power in the movie.  Unfortunately, that didn’t help at all as “Ghosts of Mars” was another bomb.

One of the biggest problems that “Ghosts of Mars” had was despite having a cool premise and plenty of badasses to pull it off, the action was really limp.  Check out this scene below.

There are deranged people running around with melee savage melee weapons and the cops are fighting big ass guns.  This should be an insane bloodbath! Instead there’s just only the slightest hint of blood at the very end.  And then there’s the soundtrack which is just some generic ’00s rock.  It doesn’t give any sort of punctuation to the action and just sounds like garbled noise in a scene that is already a visual mess.

And it’s a shame too because early on they establish the crazed miners as being real awesome looking villains.

They killed Pam Grier man! It doesn’t get more diabolical than that.  Fun fact: there’s a song on the soundtrack by John Carpenter that is just called “Pam Grier’s Dead.”

Still the movie has some amazing scenes like this one:

And of course Jason Statham and Ice Cube do a great job of being total badasses, so pretty much any scene with them is great.

For example, Jason Statham goes out like a champ fighting the hordes by himself. It’s pretty rare to see Jason die in a movie, so it’s actually kind of a shocking scene in retrospect.  At the time he was still pretty fresh to American audiences so no one would’ve batted an eye at this tough Brit dying back then.

Overall, “Ghosts of Mars” feels like a movie that doesn’t do enough of any particular thing to make it truly great.  It doesn’t have enough over the top action to make it a  stand out action movie and it doesn’t do enough with the horror elements to make it a memorable scarefest.  Instead it just kind of rides the line in the middle and works as a cheesy bit of entertainment.

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