Ghosts of Mars, John Carpenter’s much-maligned last feature (to date), may have fake-looking exterior sets and some one-liners that should have never left the word processer, but with propulsive momentum and surprisingly deft aesthetics, it’s a rather sturdy modernized mash-up of Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape from New York. In the distant future, Mars has been colonized, but at a monstrous cost – while on a routine mission to pick up and transport suspected murderer Demolition Williams (Ice Cube) to prison, a squad of cops led by Lieutenant Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) discover a mining outpost awash in decapitated bodies strung upside down from rafters amidst twisted-metal spikes. The culprits, it turns out, are the miners themselves, who’ve been possessed by an ancient Martian evil that takes the form of cascading red smoke which turns people into post-apocalyptic warriors with a fetish for steel piercings. Carpenter’s setting for his space-Western scenario often looks cheap, and his protagonists – though embodied with the right amount of movie-hero/villain swagger by Henstridge, Cube and supporting badass Jason Statham – have an unfortunate, if often amusing, habit of making ludicrous trailer-ready boasts at every turn. Nonetheless, the writer/director knows how to milk his familiar plot for tension, and his action sequences have a nuts-and-bolts vitality amplified by his disinterest in CG effects and fondness for hand-to-hand skirmishes. Better still, however, is the hallucinatory structure of Ghosts of Mars’ narrative, which proves a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, all tethered together by dreamy jump-fades and diagonal transitional wipes – a style that complements the old-school heavy-metal carnage in uniquely unsettling, unreal ways.