Last Days on Mars (2013)
*** WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS AND PLOT DETAILS OF THE MOVIE ***
Starring: Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai
Running time: 98mins.
Directed By: Ruairi Robinson.
Based on the short story ‘The Animators’ by Sydney J. Bounds, Irish director Ruairi Robinson brings this sci-fi horror to life in what I would consider to be a gem of a film. The premise sees a team of researchers on their last day of work on Mars. Set in the not too distant future, this group of cranky, tired and frayed individuals are preparing to pack up and leave after a frustrating time on the planet, when one of them, Marko (Goran Kostic) makes a startling find and proceeds to head out to get another sample, bringing back something terrifying in the process.
This movie has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews since its screening in Cannes earlier this year; it debuted in UK cinema in September and will have a limited release in the US in December. I loved this film, the kind of horror/thriller movies I enjoy the most are when a group of people start getting offed one by one in a desperate race to stop or flee from the source of terror. And this hits the spot perfectly for me. This is a predictable movie; there are massive nods or homages made to movies such as Alien, Prometheus, as well as a horde of other horror flicks.
Liev Schrieber is excellent as the set upon hero of the piece, suffering from massive bouts of Anxiety while on the red planet, he struggles inside and out in order to try escape the terror chasing him and the team. The terror I speak of? A bacterium found on the red planet that mutates humans into a zombie like creature. But these aren’t any old zombies; they’re aggressive and quick and are smart enough to operate machinery, weapons and ships. Schreiber and company must hold out for 19 hours before the relief team from the Aurora come to pick them up setting up the frantic survival race against the mutated crew members.
The crew in fairness are the usual ragtag group of shallow characters you’d expect to meet in one of these flicks, the deep thinking captain (Koteas), the badass chick (Williams), the flawed hero (Schrieber) and a cute nurse (Garai) and a few more to round out the group. It’s in my opinion a quality cast and Schrieber fresh off his popularity on the show Ray Donovan delivers expected. When I sat down to watch this all I was told was it was about space zombies, but the word zombies is never used. For fans of horror… there’s plenty of blood and the effects are of great quality as well.
The pacing of the movie is slow and quiet for the most part, slowly building the tense claustrophobia of the situation the crew begin to deal with. The horror element is fully present through the choice of colours, from the bright red of the blood in a very sterile white background of the base to the greys and blacks of the zombies once the infection of the bacteria takes full effect. Again the idea has been done before, but the execution is excellent, I couldn’t help but think a cinema release would increase the enjoyment of the experience. I would also understand people not liking this or calling it a rip off, but there’s enough in this to give sci fi horror fans a good thrill.
This has been a positive review and my only real complaint with the movie is when the action gets going it gets difficult to sort out who is who as all the characters are in the same suits, and it gets clunky when there is a lot of movement, the perspective a little off. Minor grumbles I must admit, as I was fully into it from the opening scene. Truly a decent calling card for Irish director Robinson to use on his Hollywood cv. With low budget effects, a good cast and some nice effects padding out a predictable script, this is one to enjoy. And a tip of the hat to the Dublin VFX team led by Ed Bruce (Game of Thrones) who contributed to this movie as well, hopefully big things to come from these guys.
What I liked: Smart Zombies, plausible reason for them, tenseness, and special effects.
What I didn’t like? : Clunky camera work during action sequences, predictable fare, not being able to tell cast apart in generic space suits.
If you have an opinion on the movie or my review, feel free to comment below!
Al’s rating: 7/10