Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ghosts of Mars (2001) AKA Rap VS Metal

Every true film buff has gorged themselves on the tasty offerings of John Carpenter at some point in their viewing history. It's true that the quality of his work over the years has gone from so so to just plain shitty, but when he hits that cinematic sweet spot, you're in for a treat. 2001's "Ghosts of Mars" doesn't quite hit the spot, but it does tickle it a bit with a nice cup of Carpenter jambalaya chock full "o" little reminders of why we ever loved the guy in the first place. You see, watching Carpenter films is kind of like eating pizza. Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good.

At some point in the future, the red planet is terraformed, colonized, and governed by a matriarchal society. Women may be from venus, but they rule the men on Mars. The story is basically told through the flashbacks of Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge). She's a smoking hot, leather clad, pill popping space cop whose mission was to bring outlaw James "Desolation" Williams (Ice Cube) to justice for the murder and decapitation of several miners. She came back to town alone, unconscious, and handcuffed inside a train running on auto pilot. So what the hell happened to her and her crew? Nothing good if you know John Carpenter.

Desolation Williams is supposed to have been caught and jailed in the remote mining outpost of Shining Canyon, but when Ballard and her crew arrive, they quickly realize that strange things are afoot. The place is dead, Williams is indeed in jail, but there are many other shredded corpses scattered throughout the town. So if he was in jail, who was dicing up the miners? It seems that while digging, the hapless workers accidentally released the "ghosts" of the title. Once freed, these ghosts possess the majority of the town and cause them to self mutilate and destroy anything and everything. A nice little booby trap from an extinct alien society to keep any other species from ruling Mars.

Cube knows how to survive in South Central Mars

The plot really doesn't matter at all because this is a total b-movie experience. What does matter is that anyone possessed dresses up like a heavy metal reject complete with unique body piercings and funky tattoos. Even the evil leader of the metal horde resembles somebody who has taken their love for Marilyn Manson a little too far. This doesn't sit well with Ice-Cube and his South Central upbringing and the stage is set for a rap vs. metal showdown.
The criminals and the cops must barricade themselves in the police station and work together if they are to survive the imminent attack. Carpenter vets should instantly recognize a little "Assault on Precinct 13" at this point.

Rumor has it that this guy played Paul in The Wonder Years

Honestly, this is not even a fraction as good as some of his past works, but I still find a lot to like about the film. Henstridge is solid as the hero, and is supported by some decent talent like Jason Statham (has the ability to make any movie line sound cool), Pam Grier (tragically underused), and that one guy that's in other stuff but you don't know his name. How could you have a Carpenter movie without his signature repetitive musical score? You can't because it would suck, so of course we get that here in full force! Most of John's staples are present, and I think I love the fact that he blends so many genres together for this one. It's a western.......no wait.....it's sci fi.....no wait.....it's horror. Actually it's all of those, but mostly it's an excuse for Ice Cube to shoot white people. Check it out, it's straight out of Compton G!

classic Carpenter music