Apollo 18

Bottom Line: This “found footage” should have stayed lost.

Directed by: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Starring: Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins, Warren Christie

The tagline should tell you everything about this movie: “There’s a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.” Now the last actual accomplished Apollo mission was Apollo 17, in December of 1972. Apollo 18, 19, and 20 were all cancelled by NASA***. APOLLO 18 was conceived under one idea, which from a glance, seems unique: What if we could show why we’ve never gone back to the moon? The problem: they do this by not only supposing Apollo 18 wasn’t cancelled, but also attempting to make a horror movie out of it.

The story is actually quite simple, considering the overall premise. In this heavy fictionalization, it is December of 1974, and the Apollo 18 mission has been planned as a secret expedition after its initial cancellation. Three men–Ben Anderson (Warren Christie), Nate Walker (Lloyd Owen), and John Grey (Ryan Robbins)–have been selected to take part in the mission. Almost immediately after the three of them hit space, there is something that begins constantly interfering with their radio frequencies and interrupting their communications with Houston. After lots of growing tension (for the characters in the film; it’s not very effective to the film’s audience), it becomes more explicitly obvious that they are being hounded by extra-terrestrial life.

It was in 1979 that the talented Mr. Ridley Scott struck cinematic gold with a science-fiction horror masterpiece. (If you are a living, breathing, human being, I’d expect you to know what film I’m referring to, so I won’t bother to mention the title.) His message was in the tagline (“In space no one can hear you scream”), but it was more effective from watching the film. It would be downright plagiarism to use the same tagline as director Ridley Scott did in 1979, so the message of the movie is clear throughout: In space, no one can hear you scream. No one can help you, and if something happens, oh well. Even though there haven’t been all too many horror films that take place in space, APOLLO 18 makes us feel as if we’ve been bombarded with that theme countless times. It seems so clichéd, and the use of the “found footage” technique doesn’t help. This technique was used in other horror and science fiction films such as PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, THE LAST EXORCISM, [REC], and CLOVERFIELD to enhance the believability of the story and increase the level of fear and tension. It worked in those films quite effectively, but not in this one at all. Had this been a more psychological horror film about three men who got stuck on the moon, it probably would have worked great. When the obstacle in the plot is extra-terrestrial life, the laughing factor is enhanced for anyone over twelve years old.

I have to give points to APOLLO 18 for being watchable, at the least. The story wasn’t at all convincing; nor were the titles at the beginning informing us that this was truncated footage from thirty-seven years before, just found and leaked to the web. It even negates the entire story it conveyed in the end by giving us the official reports of the Apollo 18 mission. Somehow, there was a “so bad, it’s good” type of entertainment that isn’t usual for a film made as poorly and carelessly as this. That said, it was entertaining enough for its seventy-minute length, but the mistakes are so manifest that inadvertently works better as a comedy than a horror movie.

***If you happen to work at NASA, PLEASE do not watch this film. You will be deeply offended.

13 thoughts on “Apollo 18

  1. We gave this a pretty poor score as well when we reviewed it. I think I may have liked the film a bit more than the other two guys. This was an ok B movie but certainly nothing to get excited about. I think some of the hate for the film might have to do with the trailer and marketing which I think was actually better than the film itself.
    nice review

    • Thanks. I don’t think I’ve seen the trailer, actually; I only really see trailers in the cinema, unless they’re for a film I’m VERY excited for. This film was so delayed, and it was actually planned for a while to come out this January. I’m just wondering: could they have gone back to it and taken more time with it if they had stayed with January? If so, it would’ve been a good idea.

        • Haha, I love when you said, “In space, no one can hear you sing,” in response to “Do you remember a song from the film?” I wish I had thought of that so that I could have put it in the paragraph in which I compared it to Alien, haha.

          P.S.: Do you guys see these movies together or separately at different times? Just wondering. It’s neat to see three guys reviewing together. 🙂

          • Well my brother an I usually go and catch an early matinee together, but Scott still lives in Boston so we never get to go to the movies with him.
            Also we never talk about our reviews or opinions on the film prior to posting them.

  2. i’m a fan of these found footage movies but i think we could well be entering a phase of laziness and cashing in on these types of movies popularity by some filmmakers which could very quickly oversaturate the market. I havent seen this movie because the trailer switched me off completely. whether a type of movie is popular it still has to execute in whatever its chosen style is, the pioneering ones you mention all delivered on the premise and your right poor execution, in this film in particular not only makes the film cliched, but the style too. good post.

    • I’m a fan of found footage, too, and I’d have to agree with you on that one. We started out well with Blair Witch (so I’ve heard–haven’t seen it), and moved on to great ones like Cloverfield and the Paranormal Activity movies. But now we’re starting to have more from the bad side, such as Quarantine, The Devil Inside (so I’ve heard), and this. Thanks for commenting!

    • I’d assume if anyone working at NASA were to use my grading scale, they’d give this an F, because it’s such a bad insult. It was as if they were trying to have some fun with the project, but they wound up with so many obvious errors. It’s sad that 2011 saw both the release of this film and the cancellation of America’s beloved space shuttle program. Not exactly saying they had anything to do with each other…;) But honestly, if there was a correlation, I’d have to bump my grade down even further because that would be truly upsetting.

        • I know, and I’m still not understanding why there was THAT much hate for this one. It was bad, but it wasn’t abominable. It was at least entertaining. Shark Night, Green Lantern, The Rite, and Breaking Dawn – Part 1 were all abominable, in my opinion, and extremely difficult to sit through. Yet most of those haven’t been voted as much as the year’s worst. I guess it’s the “so bad, it’s good” factor that served as good reasoning. But that’s what had me entertained…

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