Plot – Decades-old found footage from NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission, where two American astronauts were sent on a secret expedition, reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.
Director – Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Released – September 2011
The general consensus when Apollo 18 first came out seemed to suggest that this was just another found-footage horror film in an already convoluted sub-genre, filled with all the cliches and twists you have seen multiple times before, only this time taking place on the mood, however, after recently revisiting the movie, I have found that it contains elements to be enjoyed, which elevate it to more than what other reviews advocated.
The first of these elements that I feel gives the film added quality was just how good the cinematography ended up being. Even with the found-footage filming style, it successfully manages to evoke a real sense of being in space and unlike the vast majority of other found-footage films, here we get a somewhat believable reason for keeping the cameras rolling, with them documenting the expedition and scientific experiments that are taking place. Seriously how many times has “the camera is the only source of light” or “I need to record this for a TV show” been used now, the fact that here the characters aren’t even in control of what is recorded feels fresher.
The compact cast also manages to do a sterling job. Sure, these aren’t the warmest of characters you will ever see, but they are former military men turned astronauts in the ’70s, not exactly people famed for their warmth and the performances embody that fully. I not only found myself sympathising with their plight but also deeply invested in the story as a whole. Much of this is owed to the terse script and a lack of sub-plots, filler and unnecessary drama usually injected into films these days.
This isn’t to say that Apollo 18 doesn’t have some issues, namely, the pacing. In space, the passage of time is crucial to demonstrate just how alone you are, but here you have journeys feel cut shot and thus removes the sense of isolation that you got in films such as Alien or Event Horizon. Though I doubt fan Paranormal Activity or The Blair Witch will mind as long as the film manages to scare when it needs too.
Despite a relatively low production budget and no big-name cast members, the delivery is filled with quality and delivers more than a couple moments of disturbing horror and some surprises, which more than makes up for the limitations in the editing and pacing. Plus it turns out that if you watch it as part of a marathon with First Man and Apollo 11, it makes for a really interesting trilogy.