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Ghosts of Mars

You Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance 

Year: 2001 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Lt Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) arrives in Chryse City, the only passenger on a train. She returns without 'Desolation' Williams (Ice Cube), the prisoner she was sent to retrieve from Shining Canyon, a mining camp. Put before a tribunal, she tells her story.

The team, lead by Ballard, arrives in Shining Camp to find it empty. Sorry - that should read apparently empty. Quite soon, the first corpse is found, and not much later, a survivor describes how an old tunnel was discovered, at the end of which was an old door. The aforementioned door crumbled into dust at a single touch, releasing, yes, the ghosts of Mars. Having been cooped up for 300,000 years, they aren't too pleased to find their planet invaded. The miners are promptly possessed, and carnage ensues. How are Ballard and her team to escape? Why, through a series of increasingly bloody-but-visually-pleasing action sequences.

Director John Carpenter pulls together an impressive ensemble cast. Pam Grier, Clea Duvall (independent character actress, for those of you who stay away from arty films), and Jason Statham all have their moments, Statham almost stealing the movie as Henstridge's tough-talking sidekick. Henstridge herself juggles being the heroine and being eye candy admirably, her skills having come a long way since her debut as man-eating alien Sil in Species.

It's a good job the actors are good; Ghosts of Mars is predictable in the extreme. Replace Henstridge with Kurt Russell, and this movie could have been called Escape from Shining Canyon. Influences litter the film: Westerns, cop films, and martial arts movies are all visible. And, of course, the zombie film. The possessed don't lumber, Night of the Living Dead-style, though; it turns out that the ancient Martian ghosts know their martial arts.

Unlike other recent Carpenter films, Ghosts of Mars has a style and pace that almost compares with the best of his work - it's no [insert your favourite Carpenter movie here: Halloween, The Thing or Assault on Precinct 13], but it manages to be a B movie with more than it's fair share of thrills.

Kate Sheffield

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Screenings of this film:

2001/2002 Summer Term (35mm)