It wasn’t difficult for me to be intrigued by Apollo 18. I used to be a little boy genius about the 1960s space program, and space travel in general gets me all sorts of excited. Naturally, when I heard about a found footage-style movie, shot mostly to ape Super 8 cameras and other materials that might have made it up to the moon, about a secret moon mission that ended in tragedy and a government cover-up, I got excited. The trailers looked cool, the concept was solid, and I was all set.
Except for the fact that Apollo 18 is a dull, relentlessly stupid, incoherent mess of a film that you need to avoid at all costs.
Two astronauts (Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen) land on the moon in 1972 as a part of a secret Department of Defense-backed 18th Apollo mission. Their orders are to set up a number of secretive transmitters, ostensibly as an early warning system for Soviet attacks. As their mission progresses, the astronauts begin to find strange things, and strange events begin to unfurl. Look, I’m assuming you probably saw the trailer? That was literally the whole movie, condensed into two minutes. The actual film is a hair under an hour and a half, yet it feels like the full eighty-four hours of footage that were “recovered” from the incident.
I had a feeling this film was in trouble when, in a seventy-odd minute run time, it spent forty-five minutes doing nothing. We watched a couple of actors pretend to go to the moon. Which is fine. I enjoyed that in Apollo 13 before their little accident, and I ate it up in From the Earth to the Moon. The film makes something as inherently interesting as space travel and turns it into less fun than my taxes. You seriously sit and watch the two main astronauts (there’s a third, but he doesn’t even warrant a credit on IMDB) go to the moon, very slowly, and begin to perform their assigned tasks. When your movie is less interesting than a documentary about typeface, you’re in bad trouble. When the shit does hit the fan, it’s just as turgid and wasteful as the rest of the film. All of the tension seems to come from the various camera glitches that keep us from getting a good look at the action, or from something very quickly happening somewhere lower in the frame. That’s basically every scare, until the very end.
It’s basically impossible to care about either of the main astronauts, as they are functionally the same character. There’s very little “acting” to speak of here, other than some broad strokes featuring “TERROR.” or “ANGER.” As such, the few scares we finally get are essentially meaningless, and all tension that should be slowly building over the course of the film is just not there.
About the only saving grace of the film is the cinematography. It’s not good, though, is the thing. It’s fairly mediocre. It’s a bad sign when the best thing in the film is merely mediocre. What the film accomplishes is, either through digital trickery or actual old cameras, is a fairly authentic-looking film. This movie simply looks like it could have been shot with Super 8s and other cameras that astronauts can and have brought on lunar missions. The space nerd in me was very happy for that fact, though I was sadly finding the film wanting in literally every other area.
Apollo 18 is terrible. The studio knew it, considering the release date shuffled around faster than the cast of E.R. and refused to screen the film for press. This is an awful note to end the summer on, so I’d strongly recommend you save your money and skip it. If you must see another summer movie this Labor Day weekend, make it Attack the Block, if you can. Or Winnie the Pooh. Or a burn ward.
And as a final P.S., to you idiots that are debating whether or not the film is real: fuck right off and die horribly. I’ll be by within the hour to chemically castrate you.
Max Roahrig: 40- Terrible. It should be known first and foremost that I love found footage horror movies. There’s always that bit of reality that typical horror flicks can’t really replicate. But Apollo 18 might be the movie that turns me off of found footage for a while. What could’ve been an awesome 86 minute cut of the Ren and Stimpy episode “Space Madness” turns out to be the schlopiest excuse of a horror movie I’ve seen in a while. The movie offensively disregards everything that makes a found footage movie good. There’s two aspects of found footage horror that makes it scary. The first of which is characterization. You should be able to relate to the characters on screen, or at least have empathy for them. You don’t want them to die. And secondly, it should be scary. Because horror movies. Apollo 18 does away with both rules, and in return, we’re given a boring movie with zero scares. Here’s some advice, avoid this movie like a herpes ridden prostitute, and go watch REC. That is how found footage horror is done.