John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars attempts a productive combination of SF elements (a largely terraformed Mars with its long-lost civilisation) and horror (mass possession that turns the victims into rampaging, self-mutilating monsters that kill and burn). A police-force detachment turn up in a mining community to collect a bandit, whose last heist was uncharacteristically violent, and soon find themselves under siege from rampaging hordes who used to be solid citizens. This is a fairly simple set of variations on stock Carpenter elements--a hybrid between Assault on... Precinct 13 and In the Mouth of Madness. However, there is some powerful chemistry between Nastasha Henstridge's icy, drug-abusing police lieutenant and Ice Cube's bandit, Desolation Williams, made stronger by the lack of sexual tension. Other characters, such as Pam Grier's tough commander and Clea Duvall's nervous rookie, are more or less defined by plot functions; the mobs never become more than faceless, or facially distorted, anonymous menaces. This is one for die-hard Carpenter fans only. On the DVD: Ghosts of Mars on disc comes with Dolby Digital sound and its original widescreen ratio of 2.35:1. A sparky commentary by Carpenter and Henstridge is included, which is informative, but otherwise there are uninspiring documentaries on the musical score, the special effects and the difficulties of shooting at night in the Mexican desert, as well as filmographies and the theatrical trailer. --Roz Kaveney [show more]
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