ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  john carpenter

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  sci-fi

LENGTH  -  98 minutes

RELEASED  -  28 august 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  screen gems

OFFICIAL SITE  -  ghosts of mars

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $28,000,000
john carpenter's ghosts of mars - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from john carpenter's ghosts of mars at

buy the dvd from ghosts of mars at

story of human colonists on mars who must be rescued after becoming possessed by vengeful martian ghosts.

director john carpenter created the musical score for this movie and has scored nearly all of his films in the past thirty years.


picture from ghosts of mars

picture from ghosts of mars

picture from ghosts of mars


two out of four possible stars

A science fiction movie with more emphasis placed on its soundtrack than the story, Ghosts of Mars has all the hallmarks of a John Carpenter movie: blood, gore, and lots of ghosts. The title of the film is quite appropriate; the film takes place on Mars and ghosts surround the characters. But, like every other film that has taken place on Mars that has been produced in the past five years, the curse of the red planet seems to have made it quite difficult for the filmmakers to make a good film.

Red Planet and Mission to Mars were both box office and critical disappointments and Ghosts of Mars is destined to be lumped into the same category. These Mars based films aren't awful, but for a feature film experience, they don't come up to scratch. If the blood and violence in this film had been toned down somewhat, the Sci-Fi channel could have made this movie one of their original network films. The scenery in this film isn't such that the big screen of a movie theater would be required for enjoyment. And in point of fact, the target audience for this film would probably include two small factions of the movie-going public. The first would be die-hard fans of John Carpenter.

People who stuck with the director even after he produced, directed, and scored, Vampires and Escape from L.A., and several other disappointing mid-nineties features. And although this movie fails in many departments, the scary element of the film, something that could be considered the film's main purpose, is quite successful. Perhaps the make-up department should be congratulated, but the "ghosts" in this movie are enough to make most people jump. And placing the horror aspect on Mars for the story is a good combination of genres. Richard Cetrone, the head evil guy, laughingly referred to as "Big Daddy Mars" in the credits, plays a classic scary bad guy.

Cetrone is a career stunt man in Hollywood and instead of casting separate people for the character of Big Daddy Mars (this character is the scary guy on the front of the poster) and that character's stunt man, Carpenter cast the stunt man as the character. And although all the dialogue from the actor was just gibberish, which was supposed to resemble an alien language, the guy was still a great example of someone you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. As were most of the other possessed characters in the movie.

But in that same vein, the genre of this film, horror, is a type of movie making that usually rests comfortably in the B-movie sect. But even though this film's bad guys are scary, as a whole, the film will never be considered a great film in that genre. Even B-movies can be treated as campy classics, but the effort put into Ghosts of Mars makes it seem as though John Carpenter wanted audiences to take the film seriously. But with some of the moments in the film being almost comedic, looking at this film as a mainstream Hollywood feature is quite impossible. And when John Carpenter's rock and roll score, which sounds like a B side for a 1980's hair band, kicks in, the film is easier to look at as a midnight feature on the Sci-Fi channel than a serious attempt at filmmaking

And the lack of humor compounds this problem. If the audience was allowed to laugh at the characters during a few scenes, the more serious moments of the film would have been more effective. But as it is, there is only one real moment of humor in the film, which was meant to be funny by the filmmakers, and that is in the last shot. Action films can get so overloaded with serious characters and bloody gun/sword/fist fights that a little light humor in the mix makes the whole film feel rounded and more complete. Without a few light bits, two hours of fighting can become quite hard to take. And given that the characters in this film are so serious that it's impossible not to laugh at them, the movie as a whole becomes laughable in areas, despite the great make-up on the bad guys.

It seems that Natasha Henstridge and Ice Cube play characters who find themselves in a bad B-movie feature made by a director whose biggest value these days is in placing his name above the title. This film could be considered just a standard horror film in the respect that the characters are trapped by something evil and must get out. But their route to freedom carries with it no surprises and looks to be more the standard John Carpenter at work. Given that the film without Carpenter's name typed in front of the title might be regarded as just another bad B-movie, it's sad to note that placing his name in front of the title doesn't change anything.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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