When you blend science fiction and horror you can create a very interesting film, but it is also very risky. The two seem like they would go together nicely, but science fiction has requisites that horror films don’t. A science fiction film is normally thought provoking and consists of truths or concepts that we aren’t necessarily familiar with. While a good horror film may have these traits also, it is not necessarily required. The Last Days on Mars has all the elements of a decent horror film, but it falls flat when it comes to thought-provoking science fiction fun.
It is the year 2040 and the Tantalus Base outpost is conducting alien research on Mars. The eight-person crew has been there for six months and is only 19 hours away from completing their mission and going home. The entire point of their research was to find life, but nothing has been found, which has resulted in frustration. Furthermore, the isolation has taken its toll and many members of the team aren’t thinking soundly. With just a little time left, biological signs of life are found, but with deadly consequences. This fungus-like life form enters the blood stream, kills the host, and then turns the person into a fierce zombie. The rest of the movie plays out like your normal zombie flick, which is a shame considering the rich plot that could have existed.
What is really disappointing about The Last Days on Mars is its inability to max out its potential. I am a true believer that science fiction and horror can mix. On Mars, in space, or wherever, a science fiction horror can create unique plot twists under the premise that whatever we think we know isn’t true. When dealing with science fiction, there is never any storyline that is too crazy. The Last Days on Mars doesn’t generate anything unique whatsoever. There is a biological agent (which looks just like fungus), which turns people into plain-Jane zombies. Even the characters don’t have too much emotional depth. Archetypes are present like the heroic male lead, the egotistical scientist, and the nurturing female.
Unfortunately, this film further suffers from pacing issues. With a run time of 98 minutes, it feels more like 120 minutes. Time can be a major asset if you are presenting something really stimulating. This film doesn’t do that so I felt bored during many moments.
The scares are formulaic and the plot isn’t thought provoking, so what does it do well? This movie is steeped in potential. I want another one made with the same concepts, but pushed to the max. When you combine such stimulating genres like science fiction and horror, I feel that it is the moment to really create something that hasn’t been created before. Sadly, The Last Days on Mars didn’t accomplish that. There is nothing worse than a film that could have been great, but failed.
If you liked The Last Days on Mars, you might also like 28 Days Later.