Ghosts of Mars Preview

A small note prior to this post: Last July we decided to take a look back at the movies that we watched over five years ago and choose a Hall of Fame class, five movies that we thought embodied BMT in some way. Perhaps they were particularly bad, or an example of a specific bad movie trope, whatever, something made them stand out as special in our minds. Since we didn’t do email previews before 2013ish we also decided to provide a preview for the movie. This is the second in a series of five leading up to our yearly awards the Smaddies Baddies. A recap (Hall of Fame speech really) will follow immediately afterwards to explain why the movie was chosen, things we loved about the movie, and things we discovered upon second viewing. Enjoy!

Ghosts of Mars (2001) – BMeTric: 67.2

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(that is quite a low rating I’m going to be honest. I’m not really surprised, the movie is a hilarious debacle, but you’d think those John Carpenter heads out there might be keeping the rating afloat a bit.)

Leonard Maltin – 1.5 stars –  In the near future, Mars has been colonized, but there’s an outbreak of mass murder in some remote settlements. People are possessed by vengeful Martian ghosts; it’s up to the leam of a lady cop and a hardened criminal to battle them. Routine, predictable, and dull; unimaginatively, the Martian-possessed people adopt a punk/grunge look. Basically a remake of Carpenter’s early Assault on Precinct 13.

(Multiple places note the similarities between this as Assault on Precinct 13. The reviews seem like a mix between either dull and predictable or so bonkers it is amazing. Suffice it to say: we thought it was so bonkers it is amazing.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbmFwk8n0f0

(Wow … well, that was certainly stylized. The premise is kind of a western (with alien possession being akin to some Native American burial ground perhaps, or just a Native raid on a mining outpost), and the costumes certainly seem to match at times.)

Directors – John Carpenter – (Known For: Halloween; Halloween; They Live; Escape from New York; Escape from L.A.; Halloween H20: 20 Years Later; The Fog; Prince of Darkness; Halloween III: Season of the Witch; Assault on Precinct 13; Assault on Precinct 13; Eyes of Laura Mars; Dark Star; Future BMT: Halloween: Resurrection; Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers; Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers; Halloween; Lockout; Black Moon Rising; Halloween II; BMT: The Fog; Ghosts of Mars; Notes: One of the most influential horror directors in history. One of my favorite directors. Halloween and The Thing are two great movies to introduce two very different approaches to the genre.)

Writers – Larry Sulkis (written by) – (Future BMT: Village of the Damned; BMT: Ghosts of Mars; Notes: Very likely close to or a production partner with Carpenter at the time, uncredited as a writer of his Village of the Damned as well.)

John Carpenter (written by) – (Known For: Halloween; They Live; Escape from New York; Halloween H20: 20 Years Later; Escape from L.A.; The Fog; Assault on Precinct 13; Halloween III: Season of the Witch; Prince of Darkness; Assault on Precinct 13; Dark Star; Eyes of Laura Mars; Future BMT: Halloween: Resurrection; Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers; Halloween 5; Halloween; Black Moon Rising; Halloween II; BMT: The Fog; Ghosts of Mars; Notes: He wrote a good number of the films he directed back in the day. Notably he also often produced the synth heavy soundtracks. I was in Edinburgh and missed a concert by him by one day. I was very sad.)

Actors – Natasha Henstridge – (Known For: The Whole Nine Yards; Bounce; Future BMT: Maximum Risk; Adrenalin: Fear the Rush; Steal; Deception; Dog Park; BMT: Species II; Ghosts of Mars; The Whole Ten Yards; Species; Notes: Canadian, but started as a model in Paris. Species was her first role in the biz, which makes perfect sense.)

Ice Cube – (Known For: xXx: Return of Xander Cage; 21 Jump Street; Friday; Boyz n the Hood; 22 Jump Street; Three Kings; The Book of Life; Higher Learning; Barbershop; Barbershop: A Fresh Cut; Rampart; Trespass; Barbershop 2: Back in Business; The Longshots; The Glass Shield; Future BMT: First Sunday; Lottery Ticket; Fist Fight; Friday After Next; I Got the Hook Up; All About the Benjamins; Next Friday; Dangerous Ground; The Players Club; BMT: xXx²: State of the Union; Torque; Anaconda; Are We Done Yet?; Are We There Yet?; Ghosts of Mars; Ride Along 2; Ride Along; Notes: Basically a BMT staple at this point, and we got plenty of time to go. Has had an interesting acting career going from mostly thug / gangbanger, to comedy, to kids’ film, and now he tends to be a cop in comedies.)

Pam Grier – (Known For: Mars Attacks!; Jackie Brown; Escape from L.A.; The Man with the Iron Fists; Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey; Above the Law; Foxy Brown; Something Wicked This Way Comes; Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; The Big Bird Cage; Holy Smoke; Class of 1999; Coffy; Just Wright; The Big Doll House; The Package; Fort Apache the Bronx; Original Gangstas; Future BMT: Bones; Fortress 2; Snow Day; Jawbreaker; Larry Crowne; Posse; The Allnighter; In Too Deep; Scream Blacula Scream; BMT: Pluto Nash; Ghosts of Mars; Notes: Insane life. She started in blaxploitation cinema filming in the Philippines where at some point in the 70s she contracted some tropical disease, lost all her hair, and temporarily went blind taking over a year to recover. Then in 1988 she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 18 months to live. She survived both. Say what?)

Budget/Gross – $28 million / Domestic: $8,709,640 (Worldwide: $14,010,832)

(Absolute catastrophe! Oh no John Carpenter, why?)

#71 for the Action Heroine genre

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(Ah right there before the peak, that’s definitely fun. Considering the notes indicate Henstridge was basically dying of exhaustion during filming from making so many movies it does seem like it was the time to be a fit female actress in Hollywood. You got to just pick a franchise and run with it for a bit there.)

#43 for the Sci-Fi Horror genre

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(You’d think this would be surging a bit more with the recent Horror surge … especially because sci-fi feels like one of the genres that can benefit from a low budget shoestring approach. We’ve seen quite a few of these at this point. Can’t genre I enjoy the genre much to be honest. Kind of like action comedies … not really good action films, not really good comedies. Sci-fi horror tends to make for a not really good sci-fi film and a not really good horror film.)

#30 for the Zombie genre

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(Right at the forefront of a Zombie resurgence! Rather interesting because this is still the only bad zombie film we’ve done which seems … unbelievable. Although I guess that is mainly because we haven’t done any of the Resident Evil films. Really became a thing around 2015, has since cooled.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 21% (22/104): John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars is not one of Carpenter’s better movies, filled as it is with bad dialogue, bad acting, confusing flashbacks, and scenes that are more campy than scary.

(The flashbacks! That is one of the best parts to be honest. Once you are like 4 layers deep you kind of forget who you are and why you are even watching the film. Reviewer Highlight: Someday we’re all going to look back on this one and l-a-a-a-augh. – Cody Clark, Mr. Showbiz)

Poster – BANANANANANANANAS! (D)

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(I really really really wanted to like this poster but I have several problems with it. It looks cheap and dumb. The color scheme is both obvious (red is for Mars, black is for spoooooky) and poorly done. The alien guy looks silly. He wouldn’t look that silly, but they you notice his multiple finger piercings and you are like “that looks silly”. I desperately want to think any part of this is cool, but it isn’t. The font is maybe okay, the gradient is tough to replicate exactly on the fly.)

Tagline(s) – It’s their planet… we are the aliens. (B-)

(I like the idea of it, but it just doesn’t roll of the tongue as much as it needs to to get it a better score. Kind of obvious, but with the poster above I think it works enough, like you see the weird looking guy and you know it is kind of talking about him / them / it specifically.)

Keyword(s) – martian; Top Ten by BMeTric: 70.0 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964); 67.2 Ghosts of Mars (2001); 61.0 Doom (2005); 51.4 My Favorite Martian (1999); 45.9 Mars Needs Moms (2011); 39.4 Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003); 26.8 Contamination (1980); 26.3 Spaced Invaders (1990); 26.2 Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991); 24.7 Mars Attacks! (1996);

(I’m kind of shocked at how few of these we’ve done. I bet we could get a lot more done. Maybe with a stellar cycle … would have to think of how best to do something like that though.)

Notes – John Carpenter revealed that he had become burnt out after he had made this film and made the decision of leaving Hollywood for good. It would not be until nine years later that he made a full feature film, which was The Ward (2010).

Filmed entirely at night.

The prosthetics that the main bad guy wears were rather too large for his mouth and resulted in most of the “ghost-speak” having only the “a” vowel sound. (kind of like him sounding like he’s saying banananananans the entire time? … yeah I might have noticed that a bit)

Much of the location shooting was done on a gypsum mine near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The gypsum, which is almost pure white, was sprayed with a biodegradable red food dye to give the appearance of a Martian landscape. (Oh they didn’t create a giant biohazard by spraying it with blood?)

Jason Statham was originally hired to play James “Desolation” Williams, but was replaced by Ice Cube for star power.

Natasha Henstridge replaced Courtney Love (the original choice) at the last minute. Love left the project after her boyfriend’s ex-wife ran over her foot in her car while she was in training for the picture. Michelle Yeoh, Franka Potente and Famke Janssen were briefly considered. Henstridge was suggested by her then-boyfriend Liam Waite, and was able to join the cast just a week before production began. The actress found the experience to be very harrowing, due to the heavily physical nature of her role and the difficult working conditions.

In a 2006 interview, Ice Cube nominated this as the worst movie he had appeared in, calling it “unwatchable in many ways. John Carpenter really let us down with the special effects on that one – it looked like something out of a film from 1979”.

This film contains Jason Statham’s first ever on-screen kiss.

Production had to shut down for a week when Natasha Henstridge fell ill due to extreme exhaustion (she had just done two other films back-to-back before joining the production at the last moment).

For the film’s score, music producer Bruce Robb brought in famed heavy metal band Anthrax to play to picture for director John Carpenter, who had originally filmed the movie listening to Metallica. The film’s score is entirely original and was recorded by Robb at his Cherokee Studios in Hollywood. The film’s DVD offers a bonus feature with behind-the-scenes footage in the studio with the musicians, Carpenter and Robb.

The narrator on the trailer is Keith David.

The film is considered to be a futuristic remake of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). (Eh makes sense I guess. I’ve seen the original Assault on Precinct 13, very grindhouse style which is good and bad I think)

Originally called Escape from Earth, a supposed sequel to Escape from L.A. (1996) that features Kurt Russell as Snake Plisskin before changing its script due to box office failure.

For the film’s soundtrack, director and composer John Carpenter called upon various rock musicans to help enhance his own score. They include members of Anthrax, Steve Vai, Guns N’ Roses’ guitarists Buckethead and Robin Finck and Elliot Easton (formerly of The Cars).

The film takes place in 2176.

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