Back in January, I reviewed a zombie movie called Knight Of The Dead, and in that review I said I had never seen a zombie flick set in the medieval ages, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to review it. Well, in The Last Days On Mars zombies finally make it into the final frontier, another setting I have never seen them in. It’s about goddamn time, too. These way over exposed movie monsters have run their course in my opinion and it’s about time someone finally looked up and decided to take them off world.
To be precise the “zombies” in this movie are not quite the tried and true versions you get on Earth. Just by origin alone it already sets them apart in that an alien bacteria is the cause. Other tell tale signs of their “alien” uniqueness is the turning of the skin to a weird, black veined look in some and an extreme skeletal, desiccated visage in others. But like their Earth bound counterparts (depending on what movie rules you adhere to) the procedure to becoming one is relatively the same; the human dies and then comes back to “life” sans heartbeat and all those other well-known signs that give away the living, and they instantly have the unwavering urge to attack and then kill/infect others who are not like themselves. There’s even a scene towards the end that implies these “zombies” are in fact eating their victims, so you can add that little tidbit towards these things being just like their Earthling gut munching cousins now.
This alien bacteria is very contagious, say for instance you’re scratched by one or are stabbed by any instrument one of them is wielding you’re pretty much infected.
The first to “turn” is Russian scientist, Marko Pretrovic, after finally discovering “life on Mars,” which is the whole purpose of this base, how ironic that for these researchers it happens to be their last day on the Red Planet, and they’re about except defeat when Pretrovic makes his discovery without telling anyone else. It’s presumed he wants all the glory for himself and takes one of his comrades, Richard Harrington (Tom Cullen), out to the dig to find more samples.
It’s an accident that gets him infected as he’s holding a sample of the microbes and the ground underneath collapses sending him plummeting down into this cave. The first appearance of Petrovic as a “zombie” reminded me of a scene from William Malone’s Creature (1985, aka Titan Find) where an already “zombified” Klaus Kiniski enters an airlock with an unconscious crewmember. When he takes off his helmet he reveals himself to the others to no longer be of the human race. Similar scene here, “zombie” Petrovic enters an airlock, crewmember, Harrington, has no clue there’s anything seriously wrong with him, then he gets his helmet off and—BAM! —it’s revealed he’s no longer a member of the human race. His “zombification” is the most extreme, the most “creature-laden,” and the creepiest.
On one level, yes, you could make an argument that this most is somewhat derivative, I mean, it’s nothing we haven’t really seen before, but it’s interplanetary setting and the fact it’s based on a 1975 short story by Sydney J. Bounds called, “The Animators,” does lend it a touch of originality.
I’ve never heard of this story but am curious about it now.
Also there are a couple character types you generally see in these kinds of ‘trapped-in-a-local-by-a-monster’ movies. You know the ones. The character that’s basically a dick that all the others have a problem with. There’s at least one like that in every group based survival flick. In this movie it’s played brilliantly (aka realistically) by Olivia Williams. And then there’s that other character that does something either inadvertently or purposefully treacherous that gets another character killed; that role is also played brilliantly (aka realistically) by Johnny Harris.
Despite these obvious “flaws,” if you want to call them that, I was still captivated by the story, the actors and how it was all going to end. You kind of know where it’s going but that didn’t stop me from hoping at least one of the astronauts/researchers got a happy ending. Depends on how you look at it, but, I guess, one of them did.
I forgot to mention actors, Elias Koteas (Casey Jones from the 1990 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Thomas Dagget from the 1995 Chris Walken fallen angel movie, The Prophecy) and Liev Schrieber (Phantoms, Scream 2) are in this. Koteas plays the guy in charge and Schrieber plays our doomed hero.
Magnolia releases The Last Days On Mars through their genre sub-label, Magnet, in separate DVD and blu-ray formats.
Video/Audio/Subtitle: 1080p 2.35:1 anamorphic high definition transfer—English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH and Spanish subtitles. (The picture quality on the blu-ray was gorgeous and the audio was crisp).
As for extra features, here’s what you get. I was disappointed there was no commentary.
The Making Of The Last Days On Mars (15:17): All the actors are interviewed as well as the director, who says he’s a big fan of John Carpenter, and films like The Thing (1982) and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.
Analyzing The Visual Effects (6:00): It’s easy to surmise that CGI was probably heavily used in this movie, but there were some things I thought were real, that in fact weren’t. This featurette shows the scene as it was filmed and then shows what was added via CGI. By the way all the CGI is seamless.
Behind The Scene Comparisons (4:01): Similar to the above one, this featurette shows how certain scenes were filmed while the finished product is shown in a small box in the bottom right.
AXS TV: A Look At The Last Days On Mars (3:11): This is a cut down version of the interviews that were used in the Making Of. If you’ve seen that featurette, you don’t really need to see this one.
I was delighted immensely by this movie and would love to see more filmmakers take Zombies off world.. Alien zombies would be nice twist too.