It’s the not-too-distant future. Mankind has landed on Mars and a team of astronauts is making final preparations for the six-month journey home. Weary veteran Vincent Campbell (Liev Schreiber) is longing to see blue skies again and is thankful he’s getting far away from alpha-female colleague Kim (Olivia Williams). Of course, it’s at this point that the team discovers a previously unknown bacterial life-form – a landmark finding that quickly turns deadly when several crew members are infected and become… space zombies!
Yes, Ruairí Robinson’s celestial shocker is basically ‘Red Planet’ crossed with ‘Night of the Living Dead’, but don’t let the silliness of the premise dissuade you from watching what turns out mostly to be a very capable, captivating first feature. Robinson sets the stage brilliantly, acclimating us to the otherworldly setting (the mountainous regions of Jordan convincingly stand in for the Martian landscape) and delineating the varied personalities of the crew in the engrossing, leisurely vein of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’. Once the undead start walking, however, the film loses some of its footing: most of the bloodletting is staged with quick-cut inelegance better suited to the hack horror production of your choosing, though there’s still a potent air of hopelessness that lingers as the cast is winnowed away ‘Ten Little Indians’-style. Here’s hoping Robinson adds a little more extra to the terrestrial next time around.