“Found footage” from a secret NASA mission uncovers a spooky something about the moon in Apollo 18, a sort of Paranormal Activity meets Apollo 13, minus any of the good things about either movie.
Astronauts Ben Anderson (Warren Christie), Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen) and John Grey (Ryan Robbins) are sent to the moon as part of a top secret, post-Apollo 17 mission. Apollo 18 is a Department of Defense mission and will include setting up equipment that can help serve as an early warning system against Soviet missiles, the men are told. Grey stays in the orbiter and Anderson and Walker head down to the service in the lunar lander.
They start setting up their equipment and taking samples but things start to go wrong. They get strange feedback on their communications devices, they hear odd noises when they sleep, and one day they even find footprints, prints completely unlike American astronaut boots. They follow these and find what looks like a Soviet lunar lander, as well as something even more disturbing.
Were you a fan of The X-Files? With the conspiracies and the secret government within the government and the black oil and all that? Remember how, at some point (and I can’t remember specifically what it was anymore — well before Mulder left, possibly around the time the blonde UN girl showed up) you realized “oh, this isn’t actually going to go anywhere”? Most of this movie is like that. You have your post-Watergate America, your Cold War, your secret missions to the moon, your mysterious something and then, oh, I see, huh, that’s disappointing. The “Something” is, well, stupid. It’s nonsensical within the “this is the real world” gimmick of the movie and it’s just not particularly interesting as a scary thing for either a sci-fi or a horror movie. It’s even more of a letdown than a crash landing by Transformers voiced by Spock, which was this summer’s other cinematic stab at creating a moon mystery. In fact, that opening segment of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a movie that ultimately had nothing to do with the “dark of the moon,” was more chill-inducing and sci-fi cool than the entirety of this movie. And that was Michael Bay we’re talking about.
What makes the overall failure of this project so disappointing is that initially it seemed to have a lot going for it. This movie used its setup to its advantage — the grainy “found” footage helps obscure less than perfect sets and effects. It keeps things murky, which can help create mystery and the sense that you might not be seeing what you think you’re seeing. Paranormal Activity did this brilliantly and managed to make slowly closing doors and pool cleaners scare the bejesus out of us. But Apollo 18 takes that nice bit of technical cover-up for a small budget and a fun conspiracy premise and does very little with it. It goes nowhere, brings up no delicious “what ifs” and offers nothing special about its characters to make up for the lackluster story. D
Rated PG-13 for some disturbing sequences and language. Directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, Apollo 18 is an hour and 26 minutes long and distributed by The Weinstein Company.