John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars (15)

Review by Jack Foley

IT HAS been a few years since the name John Carpenter struck the right type of fear into the minds of movie-goers. Gone are the high expectations of movies such as Halloween and The Thing, replaced instead by an almost despairing sense of 'how bad will this be'? In the case of his latest, The Ghosts of Mars, very, very bad.

I can't remember laughing so hard at a film that was meant to be scary in ages, or scratching my head in disbelief so many times as stright-faced 'stars' uttered lines such as: "If we set off the nuclear weapons, what will happen?"

Natasha (Species) Henstridge, Ice (Three Kings) Cube, Pam (Jackie Brown) Grier and Jason (Snatch) Statham are the cast members in question - the makers will probably describe them as ensemble - playing a group of humans stranded on a remote outpost on the Red Planet who find themselves being 'taken over' by Mars' long dormant inhabitants.

Those that are lucky get to mutilate themselves while going mad; those that aren't get decapitated and hung upside down. The question remains as to whether Henstridge's unit of police cops or Cube's mis-understood 'bad guy' will escape from the outpost before it is too late. But I doubt if you will care.

Even by the director's recent standards (Vampire's, for instance) this is dire; but laughably so. The film lacks suspense, cohesion or logic.; it is dogged by an idiotic script and its special effects fail to make the grade - the evil ones seem to have stumbled off the set of The Rocky Horror Show.

And performance wise, this is one the stars will want to forget. Statham, in particular, as the token Brit, will have you sniggering whenever he opens his mouth, while Cube will soon have his acting career put on Ice if he continues to appear in movies such as this.

Henstridge appears to be having fun in the Sigourney Weaver role (she even gets to do the requisite strip to skimpy vest and knickers) but that alone is not enough to save it. This is yet another trip to Mars that should really be barred.