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'Apollo 18' Movie Review

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating

By

'Apollo 18' movie poster.
© Dimension
The latest in a series of "found-footage" horror movies, Apollo 18 separates itself from the pack by making the setting quite literally out of this world. The "what if" scenario takes us to the moon with a story for conspiracy theorists to chew on about a classified mission that never made it to the history books.

The Plot

What you're about to read is confidential -- at least, according to this movie. The footage is supposedly from the secret lunar expedition of Apollo 18, the true last mission to the moon, and the film is edited from hours of video discovered and posted on the website lunartruth.com. (The site is conveniently down right now; well played, The Man.) Anyway, it goes something like this...

In 1974, two years after the last publicly documented trip to the moon, three American astronauts -- Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen), Ben Anderson (Warren Christie) and John Grey (Ryan Robbins) -- are recruited for a classified lunar mission. Working under the command of the Department of Defense, they are tasked with setting up transmitters on the moon that are designed to act as a defense system in the event of a Russian missile attack on the US.

On Christmas day 1974, Walker and Anderson touch down on the South Pole of the moon in the lunar module while Grey pilots the command module in orbit. Walker and Anderson get busy taking photos, posting the American flag and setting up the missile defense system, but soon they begin to hear strange static over their communication system, and unbeknownst to them, the camera is picking up unusual movements on the surface. It turns out they're not alone, and they're not even the first people to encounter these deadly lunar creatures.

The End Result

Apollo 18 easily has the most unique look of the recent rash of found-footage horror movies, due to its lunar setting and the aged look of the film designed to make it appear almost 40 years old. That alone makes it an intriguing watch, but unfortunately, the actual content doesn't live up to the premise.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that the found-footage format relies on heightened realism and relatability, but since so few of us viewers have actually been to the moon, it's hard to place yourself in the movie. You never lose sight of the fact that you're watching footage, and that detachment is only enhanced by the weathered look of the film. It doesn't help that the characters lack depth and their interactions aren't interesting enough to draw us in either.

While there's enough mystery inherent in the plot to make want to find out what happens, Apollo 18 is a sterile product virtually devoid of scares and with minimal emotional resonance. While not exactly dull, it's like watching a sporting event whose outcome you already know. There's little dramatic impact, there are no surprises, and at the end, you just shrug your shoulders and move on. While director Gonzalo López-Gallego flexed his skill with more action-oriented thrills in 2007's El Rey de la Montaña, he struggles here to generate horror chills -- although the recreation of the moon scenery is impressive.

Films with this sort of first-person, shaky camera style tend to generate a love-it-or-hate-it reaction, and I tend to fall into the former category. But as a found-footage fan, even I couldn't get into the dray matter-of-factness of Apollo 18.

The Skinny

  • Acting: B- (Realistic and likable, but hampered by the script.)
  • Direction: C- (Too bland and lacking in fright sequences; near the end, the camera angles become unrealistic.)
  • Script: C- (Interesting concept but doesn't do enough to scare or to fully explain what's happening.)
  • Gore/Effects: C (Minimal gore and not enough creature effects; effective lunar recreation.)
  • Overall: C (Visually intriguing but lacking in scares and just goes through the genre motions.)

Apollo 18 is directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego and is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some disturbing sequences, and language. Release date: September 2, 2011.

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