The Last Days on Mars – 5
Director – Ruairi Robinson
Cast – Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams, Johnny Harris, Goran Kostic, Tom Cullen
Release Year -
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I only learned of this film a few days ago thanks to following Magnet Releasing on Facebook, and after looking into this film and seeing that it is not only a sci-fi/horror flick but stars Liev Shrieber and Elias Koteas this became the most important film on my queue, and I knocked it out right away. This is the first feature film from Ruairi Robinson, who broke onto the scene with his enjoyable short film BlinkTM a few years ago. Going into this piece I really was not sure of what to expect, especially after being somewhat let down with recent films involving mars and outer space, like Apollo 18, Europa Report (good but not enough horror), and hell let me take another chance to say that Ghosts of Mars sucked. I wanted to enjoy this film, and at times I did, but in the end The Last Days on Mars is an uninspired waste of good talent and a storyline we know and love but rarely see done right.
It is the last day of a 6 month mission when a crew member of Tantalus Base discovers fossilized evidence of bacterial life on Mars. Unwilling to let anyone else claim credit for his discovery, he disobeys orders to leave the site and subsequently falls into a deep crevice when the ground collapses. With his colleagues desperate to recover his body before going home, a rescue mission proves the life form is in fact still alive and very dangerous.
I love sci-fi/horror because it blends two genres that center on issues mostly outside of human control. With horror there is usually an otherworldly force that cannot be stopped, and with science fiction, this time involving space / another planet, we are the supreme underdogs in a world we have yet to understand. The Bunker writer Clive Dawson adapts this screenplay from Sydney J. Bounds’ short story, and gives us what I was hoping would be a story that would keep me engaged and captivated. Things start off a bit bland and will test your patience despite the early runtime, but by the 17 minute mark things get interesting when the protagonists come across the first signs of life on Mars. It is then that my interest was piqued and at the 27 mark we get our first sign of horror. When they come across the unknown life form they are unsure what it is capable of and I was left wondering what type of horror the bacterial life would produce, and 35 minutes into the film my questions were answered. Without giving too much away, I will say that I was very glad to see the horror become somewhat creature-based and not merely some lame virus. From then on out Dawson’s story provides enough horror and tension to keep me interested but never enough to keep me thinking I made the right choice in expecting this to be a solid experience. As a whole the story has everything I’d want to see in this type of film, but sadly the writing execution was bland and the story was never great and in my opinion only got worse as it progressed. Sadly, the horror became worse as well. When the initial horror hit I was ecstatic, but with so many of the kills occurring offscreen I was left underwhelmed.
Ruari’s direction helps to improve on the poor story, but is never good enough to save the experience. I liked his indoor atmosphere and the indoor sets, but the outdoor locations, filmed in Jordan, did little to make the film feel scary during the daylight sequences. The nowhere-to-run scenario made for some decent tension when the horror made its way inside the space station, and the look of the antagonist(s) was better than I expected for this type of flick. There is decent gore here and there but as I mentioned earlier, too many of the kills occur offscreen for us to really enjoy them. Thankfully, we do get good acting performances from both Live Shrieber and Elias Koteas, but with the rest of the film so poorly executed their performances are all the film is worth.
Overall, The Last Days on Mars is a flick I really wanted more from due to this starring some awesome actors and its sci-fi/horror storyline. While it has a few positives here and there and starts off pretty well, by the end of the film you are left with a letdown experience that should have been better.