The Last Days on Mars (2013)

(Video on Demand, March 2014) That’s it: I’m declaring a plague of kudzombies, as the undead are proving as invasive as kudzu in taking over just about every possible movie genres and premises. After The Colony, The Last Days on Mars is the latest science-fiction film taken over by a zombie invasion, leaving an interesting premise devoured by familiar elements from another genre. It starts promisingly enough, with a relatively realistic depiction of a Martian expedition. (The setting is obviously terrestrial down to the gravity, but then again this is a low-budget film.) Tension mounts as one of the scientists discovers life under the surface… but then the small cast starts being devoured by the undead and we’re back to the old zombie plot template. I mourn the film that could have emerged from the first few minutes, because the rest is pretty much seen-this-done-that under red skies. The science-fiction elements get marginalized quickly until we’re left with the basics of the good old infected-or-not lifeboat scenarios, with characters that should be used for more interesting things. The Last Days on Mars isn’t a bad movie by itself, but it quickly heads for too-familiar tropes at a time where the zombie theme itself is getting tedious by sin of simple over-exposure. Too bad; Liev Schreiber is credible as a panic-prone astronaut, while the other actors all get a few interesting scenes to themselves. The special effects are decent for a low-budget non-Hollywood production, the direction has its moments and the visual look of the film does much to reinforce its attempts as hard-SF. Still, none of this is a match for the powerful stench of Yet Another Darned Zombie Movie that eventually stinks up the whole thing. Can zombies just go away now?

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