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Review: Apollo 18

Getting shuffled from release date to release date, Apollo 18 finally came out this previous weekend.  The latest in the ever increasing “found footage” genre, did Apollo 18 live up to the creepiness and insanity of it’s trailer or is there a reason NASA denies this mission exists?

Apollo 18 follows a crew of 3 astronauts who are recruited for the Apollo 18 moon mission which, unlike the previous 17 missions, is a classified mission under the supervision of the Department of Defense.  Astronauts Nate Walker and Benjamin Anderson head to the surface of the moon while the final crew member, John Grey, remains in orbit.  While setting up motion sensors and other instrumentation around the south pole of the moon, Walker and Anderson discover a Russian lander and the body of a cosmonaut.  Things quickly spiral out of control from there.

The best part of the movie is easily how they managed to capture the look of 70’s era cameras.  Whatever filters they put on the footage really makes it seem like lost NASA footage, for the most part.  On the flip side, the movie is constantly flipping between different cameras, each with a different look and framerate, which is annoying and a little disorienting.  70’s cameras didn’t have the best frame rate or resolution but I think a more focused look would have made the movie easier to watch and would let the audience focus more on the characters and setting.  Speaking of setting, the other strong aspect of the movie is that it seems to nail the atmosphere of being alone on the moon.  I don’t know where they shot Apollo 18 but wherever it is, it’s a great substitute for the Moon.

Performance wise, the trio of actors does a decent job of portraying astronauts slowly coming unraveled.  Lloyd Owen in particular (who bugged me the entire time because I was trying to remember where I had seen him before.  Answer: Viva Laughlin) gets increasingly creepy as the movie goes on as *spoilers* he gets infected by the aliens on the moon, which are rock like spider creatures.

The main negative about the movie is that nothing really happens in it.  The trailers had the promise of secret Russian moon missions, aliens, space sickness and other assorted craziness but the movie is lots and lots of scenes where Anderson and Walker are setting up instruments and talking in the moon lander.  Even when things start to unravel, it seems really small scale and the climax is a guy pounding on a window.  Inspired most likely by Paranormal Activity, there are also a bunch of sequences where you are looking at a static image and then something moves near the corner of the screen. You never find out anything really interesting or shocking about the Russian moon mission or the rock spiders and it seems like if the filmmakers had focused a little more on the story then on filters and look of the movie, it probably could have been an interesting sci fi/horror movie.  As it is, it’s actually kind of boring.

Apollo 18 has some great atmosphere and definitely successfully apes the look and feel of 60’s-70’s era cameras and what a lost moon mission might have looked like but ultimately it doesn’t live up to the craziness that was portrayed in the trailer.  It’s not particularly scary and even when it does start to ratchet up toward the end, it’s underwhelming.  If you’re a fan of the found footage genre I would say it’s definitely a rent when it comes out on DVD but it’s not worth heading out the theaters (especially since a lot of the movie is in 4:3 aspect anyway).

3 out of 5

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