Ghosts of Mars is a well-filmed B-movie that is a delight to watch with the right audience, but probably inane without.
Director John Carpenter, one of the pillars of B-movies, projects a surreal atmosphere onto Earth's colonisation of Mars, on his latest outing. The year is 2176 and the matriarchical society in Mars is well-established. But things appear to be going wrong and the latest incident in the mining colony of Shining Canyon is the object of enquiry by the Martian government.
It is the mood of the film that makes it all work out. The initial sequence involves all action taking place behind closed doors, either in the setting of a deposition where Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) is being interrogated, or on the train where she is about to take charge of Desolation Williams (Ice Cube), arrested in Shining Canyon for murder. The moment she gets out of the train along with her team, the building claustrophobia seems to lift.
It is revealed to us, slowly in flashbacks and hearsay from the perspective of various team members, that Ballard and her crew find that the miners have mutilated themselves, taken on a tribal look, and appear to be possessed by ghosts. It's also revealed to us that it was a scientific mission led by one of the survivors against this zombification that opened the entrance to a location where the ghosts were hidden away. And of course, Ballard and Williams must work together to find a way out of their predicament, kicking some zombie butt in this process.
This is definitely a movie that is made tongue-in-cheek and Carpenter makes no pretense about its quality. Even though there are the usual anti-authoritarian messages buried within, the focus is primarily on the effects and a good "us vs. them" confrontation that results in a high body count and gore level. The action and fight sequences (there are plenty of them) are filmed well.
The film does have a few solid and decent actors, like Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Clea Duvall, and Jason Statham; this goes well with the effort put into creating the atmosphere of the film. Carpenter also did the music for this film and that nicely compliments the mood and the visuals. I recommend checking it out on the big screen.