June 8, 2023

Vampires & Ghosts of Mars: 2 John Carpenter films from Indicator


Vampires opens with a trained, fully-equipped team of vampire slayers, led by Jack Crow (James Woods), methodically purging a “nest” of its fanged occupants. This is one of the best scenes of the movie and sets the viewers up to think, “Hey, these guys know what they’re doing. They’re some rough-and-ready characters.”
But, lo, where is the master vampire?

Woods is perfect as sardonic, illusion-free Crow and his brushing “campiness” with the tip of a finger, yet withdrawing just in time, is priceless. I was surprised that Sheryl Lee was so god damn good despite having almost no speaking lines. She was able to convey a character with a range of emotions through her expressions and body language, which was quite impressive. It’s also impressive that she is incredibly sexy, even as a vampire.

The special FX were awesome too, KNB EFX are at their very best when they work with directors like Carpenter, he’s not the kind of person to let them steal the show and work in unnecessary gags, they’re there to use their talents to improve his vision and that’s how it should be. I could watch those vampires burst into flames all day long and never tire of it, this is some of KNB EFX group’s finest work.

Aaaaaand then we get to Ghosts of Mars. Boy was THIS a step down, it was an absolute mess. I sat down to watch this hoping to like it, from what I’ve heard ( I’ve only seen 3 or 4 of his films) Carpenter is a fan favourite director. I hope this isn’t indicative of his career.

For one, it feels badly miscast, with almost none of the actors gelling together or making much of an impression. Jason Statham‘s performance here in particular is fairly obnoxious and borderline unintelligible, just grunting every single line with the same thick accent and intonation. The whole film is told in flashback, and within those scenes are other flashbacks. At one point I counted a flashback within a flashback WITHIN A FLASHBACK. Jesus, flashback-ception. While it’s not too confusing of a convention, it is a very annoying distraction.¬†Instantly forgettable.

Both titles come with a very good overall package from Indicator. Both films feature very good 1080p presentations, especially GoM which is a BIG upgrade from it’s 2009 bluray. I expect this is a better replication of how the film originally looked.

The selection of extras are similar on both titles. Spread across them there is an 80 minute interview with Carpenter, conducted by The Guardian. Something that I found strange was the fact that this was from 1994…4 years before the earliest of the 2 films was actually released. Other than that it’s an absolute must watch, he is an incredibly funny man but has had a very interesting career, up to that point. Seriously, watch it.

Vampires also includes an isolated score track and a selection of making of/b-roll segments/ interviews which are pretty basic and reuse some things but it is still worth watching. GoM features a making of/video diary, a behind the scenes of the scoring of the movie, which features Anthrax, Steve Vai and Buckethead (one of the greatest guitarists ever to have lived). A special effects breakdown and a concept gallery round it off.

As is the standard from Indicator both titles come with nice glossy multi-page booklet that features interviews with Carpenter and essays from film critics.

Peter Fletcher

Ghost Of Mars (2001) | Horror, Sci-fi | 15 | Powerhouse Films | 30th January 2017 (UK) |Dir.John Carpenter |Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea DuVall | Buy:Ghosts of Mars

Vampires (1998) | Horror, action | 18 | Powerhouse Films | 30th January 2017 (UK) | John Carpenter | James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximilian Schell | Buy:Vampires

Verified by MonsterInsights