Horror Movie Review: Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Ghosts of Mars (titled onscreen as John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars) is an action horror film written, directed and scored by John Carpenter. Set on a colonized Mars in the 22nd century, the film follows a squad of police officers and a convicted criminal who fight against the residents of a mining colony who have been possessed by the ghosts of the planet’s original inhabitants.

Martian society centres on the city of Chryse, with smaller, far-reaching outposts connected by a network of trains. In the wake of a series of mysterious incidents, Mars Police Force officer Melanie Ballard is called before a tribunal to give testimony following a disastrous mission to the remote mining outpost Shining Canyon to retrieve convicted felon James ‘Desolation’ Williams of which she is apparently the sole survivor.

Through a series of flashbacks, Ballard recounts her mission. Accompanied by commanding officer Helena Braddock, sergeant Jericho Butler and rookie officers Kincaid and Descanso. Ballard arrives at Shining Canyon to find the town seemingly deserted. Investigating the town’s jail, Braddock discovers a trio of individuals who appear to have sealed themselves into one of the cells.

It’s established that an adjacent mining team on the Red Planet had unearthed an ancient Martian defence device that unleashed warrior ghosts of the planet’s original inhabitants who in turn possessed most of the workers. Ballard and her team, including Desolation Williams, must band together to survive the vengeful spirits bent on eradicating all human life on their planet.

It’s immediately apparent which “era” this film was made in due to the many cliché aspects. You can absolutely tell it came out not long after the height of popularity of “The Matrix”. The costumes, music, editing, cinematography, Ghosts of Mars is dripping in early 00s ooze. That’s either a positive or negative depending on who you ask. I didn’t mind it so much because it actually felt kind of nostalgic.

Ghosts of Mars starts well and builds a decent amount of intrigue. One aspect that it doesn’t do too well is coherently establishing how exactly humans are colonizing Mars. For one thing, everyone walks around as if gravity and a breathable atmosphere are a given. Leave your brain at the door if you can about that sort of thing.

Too many of the characters are one note and aren’t given enough background to make you care. Honestly, It’s a good thing you won’t end up caring considering that most of them die in unremarkable fashion. Like I said, there’s intrigue but it never really feels like much of anything is happening. There’s plenty of filler dialogue and pointless back and forth bickering. Ghosts of Mars is at its best when it’s delivering over the top action, this is when it can be enjoyable. The mutant horde look great and are pretty intimidating. In fact, one aspect I cannot hate on is the effects on the whole.Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Everything appears to ramp up nicely towards an exciting finale and then “wet fart”. You can just tell they didn’t know how to end this thing. Certain illogical, unnecessary decisions are made that left me really scratching my head. It’s these choices that ultimately lead to a lot of the characters dying, it’s just lazy. I mean, it could work if the sacrifice is worth it in the end right? Oh boy, that’s an even bigger kick in the teeth.

The acting is all sorts of wooden and cheesy. Jason Statham feels out of place, I just didn’t like his character or performance here. The worst thing I can say about all of the actors is that “Desolation Williams” (Ice Cube) is not only the best character in the film but Ice Cube is probably the best actor as well. What does that say to you?

Overall, if you turn your brain completely off then there is most certainly cheesy fun within Ghosts of Mars. Despite its character flaws and nonsensical plot, there are good effects as well as a number of enjoyable action filled moments. At the very least, you cannot accuse it of being boring.


  • Liam Fisher

    Owner/Editor/Writer/YouTuber - Typical 90s-00s kid; raised on Pokémon, Final Fantasy & the Attitude Era. In fact, that makes up about 99% of my personality. The remaining 1% is dedicated to my inner rage for people who still don’t understand the ending of Lost or those that enjoyed the Game of Thrones final season. Find me on GBHBL where I’ll most likely be reviewing horror movies or games. Also, see me on our YouTube channel!

Ghosts of Mars
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