Imagine if you were stranded on Mars, a distant planet with unlimited mysteries, moons away from any rescue or civilization. What could make that situation worse? You’re already thinking about needing a spaceship just to escape, you’ve got dwindling life support, you’re on freakin’ Mars, how could it possibly get any worse?! Zombies. That’s right bitches, there are zombies on Mars, JUST LIKE JOHN CARPENTER TOLD US THERE WOULD BE! Alright, those were totally ghosts, but any chance I get to reference John Carpenter’s Ghosts Of Mars I take. Anywho, yes, there’s apparently some type of bacterial life on Mars that turns people into zombies, spreading like an infection, and Liev Schreiber is the only man who can stop it during The Last Days On Mars.
In typical horror movie fashion, a group of astronauts are finishing up their work and preparing to head back home after six months in the field. It’s pretty much one of those situations where a sign says “Accident Free Working Area For ___ Days,” just begging to be dropped down to zero. What am I saying, this is a movie, nothing will go wrong – right? Nope, engage chaos.
Just as the team is about to debrief, scientist Marko (Goran Kostic) finds something secretly exciting in his research. Getting permission to take a quick surface expedition before darkness falls, Marko and Harrington (Tom Cullen) attempt to do some last-minute work, only to have Marko fall to his death after the ground gives out below him. Mourning the loss of Marko on the last day, the remaining members go through the proper protocol before grabbing the now corpse – leading to another crew member going missing. Don’t worry, both bodies show up again shortly at the base, as undead, vicious killers. Cue hero Vincent Campbell (Schreiber) taking charge and searching for rescue, and enjoy the otherwordly fight for survival.
Alright, I understand a need to foreshadow events and build tension, but I don’t appreciate when a film bashes us over the head with so much “Look at how safe everyone is!” material. Before the zombies, before Marko has to be a greedy dick, before shit hits the fan, we listen to every single character explain just how happy they are to go home. Clive Dawson’s screenplay was just a smidgen too overbearing while trying to build some type of tension, almost to a comical level. One character misses calling his daughter just before the opportunity vanishes, and we have to laugh as he proclaims, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll just talk to her when I get home, in person, as a living human being!” OK, not verbatim, but seriously, a few nods to the impending doom is fine, but overkill just destroys the looming atmosphere.
For a movie about zombies in space, there’s also a horrible feeling that director Ruairi Robinson missed a huge opportunity here. Part of me actually assumed there’d be a techy, scientific-y intelligence to The Last Days On Mars, and I expected a lot more thrilling action, but the way Robinson presented his zombies ruined any bit of tension or fun that was left. These “creatures” were essentially indestructible, making the surviving crew’s survival attempts rather meaningless – aka the entire second half of the movie. I’m also a little unclear as to why people get infected from being stabbed with items that the deadheads are holding, I guess because the bacteria exists on the zombie’s skin, and when they touch an item, it spreads all around – but still a flimsy explanation if you ask me. Too much questioning, not enough entertaining!
When I say a phrase like “zombies in outer space,” my mind immediately gravitates towards something along the lines of a B-Movie like Iron Sky (space Nazis) or Dead Snow (Nazi Zombies). The Last Days On Mars is entirely too serious for its own good, dooming characters that are already pretty doomed. There’s just a ton of doom and gloom, and not a lot of advancement in between. Moments of true terror sometimes shine through, blending the threat of bacterial monsters and Mars’ atmosphere, but most of the time we’re just watching a domino effect of sad events plague Vincent and his friends. Ugh, I’ll just say the phrase again, “zombies in space,” – what a swing and a miss.