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‘The Last Days on Mars’: Shouldn’t zombies on Mars be more fun?

‘the last days on mars’ ★★

Vincent Campbell Liev Schreiber

Rebecca Lane Romola Garai

Charles Brunel Elias Koteas

Kim Aldrich Olivia Williams

Magnet Releasing presents a film directed by Ruairi Robinson and written by Clive Dawson. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for brief strong language). Opens Friday at Landmark Century Centre.

Updated: December 12, 2013 8:17PM

Apparently, when it comes to zombies, there’s no end to possible variations on the theme.

This year alone, we’ve had young zombie romance in “Warm Bodies,” high-speed zombie swarms in “World War Z” and now zombies in space in “The Last Days on Mars.”

Appealing as that might sound to the walking-dead obsessed, this modest, low-budget sci-fi thriller is fatally lacking in entertainment value. It’s not original enough to be interesting, despite the presence of a pretty impressive cast, or awful enough to be campy fun. It’s serious enough to be depressing, though, if that’s your idea of a good time.

The feature debut of Irish director Ruairi Robinson, “The Last Days on Mars” opens during the final hours of a six-month scientific mission on the red planet. The international team of scientists (more than a little reminiscent of the burned-out crew of “Alien”) is packing up for home when a Russian scientist (Goran Kostic) makes a bogus excuse to take one last trip to the site where he has made a secret discovery — a strain of microbes proving that Mars can sustain life.

If you can call what happens to this guy when the microbes get inside his spacesuit living.

Soon, he’s doing the zombie shuffle and the team — including Liev Schreiber as a scientist with vague psychological issues that are never explained, Romola Garai as the compassionate mission medic, Elias Koteas as the harried mission commander and Olivia Williams and Johnny Harris as the mission shrew and coward, respectively —is being whittled down one by one. Though it’s never clear why the zombies are attacking, since they show no interest in chowing down on victims. If you’re a zombie, it seems, you just naturally want to kill people, preferably with power tools.

There’s not much of a sense of place in “Last Days,” which uses the Jordanian desert to simulate the Mars-scape but regrettably includes numerous shots showing the blue sky. Worse, whenever the action heats up, Robinson shifts to shaky-cam, complete with jerky edits and a strobe-light effect so mysterious, it’s difficult to know what’s happening. You know it can’t be good, though, because this film is absolutely determined to be a bummer, relentlessly extinguishing every potential hope. The only time-outs are for bleak discussions about how it must feel to be a zombie and whether or not there’s any possibility of life after death.

The non-zombie kind, that is.

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