More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.39%
Worth A Look: 21.05%
Average: 8.77%
Pretty Bad: 12.28%
Total Crap53.51%

6 reviews, 78 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Mortal Engines by Jay Seaver

Vox Lux by Peter Sobczynski

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse by Peter Sobczynski

Vox Lux by alejandroariera

Parallel (2018) by Jay Seaver

Witch: Part 1 - The Subversion, The by Jay Seaver

Lôi Báo by Jay Seaver

Bohemian Rhapsody by Rob Gonsalves

Fireworks (2017) by Jay Seaver

Knuckleball (2018) by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Ghosts of Mars
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Scott Weinberg

"Who is this filmmaker masquerading as John Carpenter?"
1 stars

John Carpenter's latest film features evil spirits who inhabit the bodies of previously normal human beings. Based on Carpenter's recent track record, I'm beginning to think that the director himself has also been the spirit of Ed Wood.

Everyone who knows me is aware of my devotion to John Carpenter. The Fog, The Thing and Halloween rank among my favorite horror movies, and I've always had a soft spot for the B-movie charm of Big Trouble in Little China, Escape from New York and They Live! But while some people would be more forgiving to their favorite filmmakers, I've come to hold certain directors to a higher standard. (Releasing four successive turkeys at this stage in your career is nearly unforgivable.) It would be a severe understatement to say that Carpenter's last few films were not up to this standard. (My apologies to the dozens of people who enjoyed Vampires, Village of the Damned AND Escape from L.A.. You are truly more of a Carpenter fan than I am.)

Filmmaking is a difficult business. In order to make things considerably easier, many filmmakers simply revert back to their earlier bags of tricks, and the result is a film as pointless as it is familiar. No movie fits this description better than Ghosts of Mars. The plot is lifted almost entirely from Carpenter's debut film, Assault on Precinct 13, and the less important plot devices are culled from about a half-dozen other (equally unoriginal) action/sci-fi/horror movies. I'm not saying that a B-movie pastiche can't be a good time; I'm just saying that this particular one is pretty damn weak.

As the film opens, we quickly realize that this is a flashback movie, which is surely the laziest screenwriting technique ever devised. Not content with being merely unoriginal, Carpenter unwisely decides to layer these flashbacks one on top of another, and the result is poor pacing, uninvolving plot threads and an overall air of dramaticus interruptus. On more than one occasion, a character will start out saying "Well, Carter and I decided to explore the cave...", and the film quickly lurches to a sequence that has nothing to do with the film at all, one in which people explore a cave. Look, Carpenter. Tell me a story or show me a story. It doesn't work both ways.

The plot is nothing more than your no-frills "building under seige" affair, with various drab characters bouncing off the sets until each one is sliced open by the marauding martians. (I just made the movie sound more fun than it really is.) Some of the characters are interstellar cops while others are deep-space criminals. These distinctions matter not one iota, as the characters are simply presented as "human" or "martian". Humans are the good guys. The Martians (who, it turns out, simply want their home planet left alone) are the bad guys.

As the head lady space-cop, Natasha Henstridge gives a better performance than the film deserves, because she seems to know how silly the whole affair is. (Plus she's really gorgeous.) Ice Cube is on hand as the reputedly evil villain, but if you think he doesn't join up with the cops to save humanity, well then you may just consider this movie the pinnacle of all things fresh and original. A reliably familiar stable of character actors fill in the supporting roles, and they range from strong (Jason Statham) to weak (Joanna Cassidy) to almost invisible (Clea DuVall).

Even the barest of cinematic essentials are ignored in this film. The screenplay is simply atrocious, most of the acting performances could best be described as "tree-like" and the villains are simply insipid. With a plot stolen directly from last year's Pitch Black, there's literally nothing in this movie you haven't seen before. OK, you've never seen a skinny blond woman with large breasts beat up the rather rotund Ice Cube, but that's hardly worth a rental fee.

Aside from two brief (yet exciting) battle sequences, there is literally nothing of interest in Ghosts of Mars. The plot threads, characters, themes and ideas were considered "old hat" probably 20 years ago. Carpenter may not be the same filmmaker he was 20 years ago, but surely his fans deserve a little more effort than what's on display here. Call it contractual obligations, or call it "losing your edge", but this guy is fast becoming a hollow shell of a filmmaker.

I'm not the type to bash a "popcorn movie" for not being Macbeth, but even B-movie genre fare needs to be held to some kind of standard. It pains me to criticize a filmmaker I hold in such high esteem, but here's the bottom line: If John Carpenter had made this movie for his debut 20 years ago, today he'd be flipping burgers somewhere. Here's hoping this modern master of cinematic horror regains his bearings and starts working on some quality schlock, as opposed to continuing to churn out tired out tripe like Ghosts of Mars.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 11/13/01 12:42:29
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

2/21/17 morris campbell more carpenter crap 1 stars
9/01/12 Sean Harrison It's hard to believe this drivel came from one of the all-time masters of horror. 2 stars
7/21/12 Sean Harrison Disappointing from John Carpenter, one of the horror greats. 2 stars
1/26/12 Devin Sabas fun, but pretty terrible. 2 stars
12/16/11 Johnny Come-Lately nice B-movie and underrated 4 stars
12/05/09 Chris F not a bad film at all worth watching 4 stars
9/14/09 Jeff Wilder Great special effects undercut by bad writing and weak acting. 1 stars
2/16/09 belike I thought the movie looked cool, the story just kinda kinda sucked. 3 stars
1/15/09 FrankNFurter Like a high school performance of "Alien."And by a really bad drama club. 2 stars
10/22/08 Shaun Wallner The only thing i remember bout this one is Ice Cube biting his lower lip. 1 stars
2/17/07 Vip Ebriega Nothin' really new. 2 stars
2/03/07 AJ Muller It ain't meant to be Asimov, folks. A fun 'n bloody time, don't take it too seriously. 4 stars
6/23/06 TempLoop Underated. If you expected 2001, or Starship Troopers look elsewhere 4 stars
4/03/06 Rocky This movie was totally entertaining and a lot of fun. 4 stars
3/15/06 Tom bla? 3 stars
8/12/05 ES After 'The Thing' and 'Big Trouble ILC' Why? Why? Why?!? 1 stars
6/08/05 JD No oscar winner but, entertaining and worth a look. 4 stars
6/06/05 ultrazone I enjoyed it, the score and the editing in particular 4 stars
5/15/05 Indrid Cold One of many barely watchable Carpenter movies, this one looks like it was made for TV. 2 stars
10/16/04 Don Eckert I can't believe this is the same director of "The Thing". I hope he can get his magic back 1 stars
10/08/04 X Thats it! Im through with Carpenter! 1 stars
9/17/04 Jillian Wood interesting, futuristic, inventive 4 stars
9/04/04 Vince WTF happened to the Carpenter who made THE THING ???? 1 stars
7/15/04 Daveman Has the general aesthetics of a b-movie but without the fun. 1 stars
6/12/04 Raymond Lee average movie, nothing special 3 stars
6/03/04 Shaun Worth a look, I actually enjoyed it somewhat. 4 stars
5/16/04 John should be playing in a drive in theatre - 3 stars
4/11/04 American Slasher Goddess Awful,Carpenter has lost it,indefinitely. 1 stars
2/10/04 Whatevr A 2-hour version of a sleeping pill 1 stars
1/26/04 Eric Great Cast!!!Horrible movie.....Really Horrible 1 stars
12/04/03 Charles Tatum I officially give up on John Carpenter 1 stars
11/25/03 josex sucks as hell, don't watch it 1 stars
11/22/03 jack Ice cube doenst make anything worth watching. if anything he makes me want to screw a sheep 3 stars
11/18/03 he a good film 4 stars
10/24/03 Josh Standlee Ice Cube made the movie worth watching. 4 stars
9/25/03 jimmy d this movie was so scary, i went home and when the pizza guy came i shot at him by accident. 4 stars
8/23/03 nr great 5 stars
8/07/03 P.Rodriguez This is the WORST movie ever 1 stars
6/30/03 Dave Hopman John Carpenter has lost his touch a long time ago....... 1 stars
5/14/03 Kyle A fun movie, I guess... 3 stars
4/28/03 Jack Bourbon I'm very pleased to give this movie a "SUCKS." My good deed for the day. 1 stars
3/13/03 me A AWESOME FILM 5 stars
2/16/03 Vince Stay far away from this POS. You've been warned! 1 stars
1/15/03 othree a worth while attempt, solid casting, a sci fi chan movie filler need for editing 3 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby A very entertaining b-movie parody. So much fun! 4 stars
10/27/02 Mr. Hat Jason Stathom tried his best to save it, but bad music & hilariously bad aliens overcome... 2 stars
10/21/02 Jim Watchable only for Statham, who hits on Henstridge at a crucial moment and she GOES FOR IT? 2 stars
10/14/02 JesseL Not bad for its type. Cinematography is good. 4 stars
10/07/02 P.Rodriguez Worst Movie Ever, and I've seen ALOT of movies 1 stars
9/25/02 jessica A GREAT FILM 5 stars
9/09/02 Ben Wasden Natasha Henstrige and Ice Cube are great. Unfortunately, the movie isn't that great. 3 stars
8/23/02 Fish Eye I seriously enjoy movies with Ice Cube...but the script for this one is dog shit 1 stars
6/26/02 Film Guy OK. not John Carpenters best effort 3 stars
6/24/02 Rog Stay the hell away from this movie, I cant believe i spent 10 bucks in my hotel for this 1 stars
6/01/02 monica Sweet 5 stars
5/18/02 Phoenix An absolutely terrible movie. This what John Carpenter has been reduced to. 1 stars
5/15/02 Blake This movie was great but had to much profanity 4 stars
4/13/02 Spencer Lent Sucked. 1 stars
2/28/02 Alan Smithee My lord was this movie terrible. What in the hell has happened to John Carpenter?!!!!! 1 stars
1/21/02 Soap Lando I viewed it drunk in a theater full of bad guys applauding each time a cop was killed 3 stars
1/21/02 Spencer Lent Natasha can't act. Best line: "I'm going to rip your titties off" and "Who are you calling 1 stars
1/19/02 Rego Allegro To be seen as a parody of B-movies - call it C or D-movie (to be seen by Kiss' ex-fans 4 stars
1/08/02 Spyguy2 Satisfying as Cheetos if you don't mind the orange crap staining your hands and mouth 4 stars
12/31/01 Jake This movie is better than it's reviews. It was worth viewing. Solid all around. 4 stars
12/30/01 Sthenno Not a bad film at all.Carpenter mixed many old themes from his past films. Well directed. 4 stars
12/23/01 Shane Robert Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is worth a look & i couldnt either rate it a good or bad movie! so its both!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
12/06/01 DubStar I feel stupider for renting this movie. Worst directing, acting, story, special fx EVER. 1 stars
11/07/01 P.Rodriguez Seriously the shittiest acting I ever encountered in any movie, and I've seen LOTS ofmovies 1 stars
10/10/01 Andrew Carden I Love Joanna Cassidy. Anything With Her Must Be Worth A Look. 4 stars
10/09/01 marzio arigoni it's not that bad! venice loved it (1200 people à la première, with great partecipation) 4 stars
9/06/01 even Red Planet was better. 1 stars
9/05/01 E-Funk It's Carpenter folks...cheesier than most, but still a hell of a ride. 4 stars
9/05/01 ron20003 What the hell was that?? 1 stars
9/02/01 Rampage almost as bad as Escape From L.A. 1 stars
9/02/01 Bill Clinton I liked the scene with the nude intern, I would like to get up on her and ride her! Whohah 5 stars
8/29/01 Daphne Aguilera when there's only you and 3 other people in the theather something's wrong 1 stars
8/28/01 wintermute 2 words: Chrome MAC-10's 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  24-Aug-2001 (R)


  25-Oct-2001 (M)

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast