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.