Director – Gonzalo López-Gallego
Cast – Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The very first moment that I heard of Apollo 18 I was hooked, and the trailers only furthered my interest. Despite some pretty bad efforts (Atrocious) I do have a love for “found footage” horror films because I enjoy the mystery associated with the footage, and combined with my love for horror in space, as well as horror combined with factual events, I went into Apollo 18 with high expectations that were sadly never met. While the overall storyline is an interesting one that also comes with a few decent chills, Apollo 18 is a failed effort that never delivered the solid horror that I expected, making for one of the biggest disappointments of the year.
Decades after the top secret mission Apollo 18, nearly 100 hours of video shot by the astronauts was found and edited into a film displayed on the internet. The contents of the film contain the deadly events that occurred when Apollo 18 astronauts landed on the moon and found something they never knew existed.
Sometime’s it’s the story, other times it’s the direction – this time it’s both. Unsurprisingly, I loved the overall storyline due to the numerous elements it mixed, but the screenplay itself is what really had this film doomed from the start way before production kicked in. What doomed the film so early? The answer is simple: a lack of horror. Good “found footage” films tend to start off small with the horror and slowly build into awesome horror that kicks you in the face during the final act, but Apollo 18 missed out on that. The film started off with the small elements of horror (as I expected) but never developed into the truly scary experience that I was expecting and of course hoping for. We get a few cool scenes here and there, along with a few jolts, but when the end credits hit me I immediately thought to myself “Seriously? That’s all?”, while overhearing couples saying “We should have seen Shark Night 3D instead”, seriously. In addition to the failure to reach horror potential, writers Brian Miller and Cory Goodman(Priest) threw in some heavy cliches that I saw coming with ease, which were not necessarily bad in their own right but did nothing to help look past the films other faults, which they could have done. Their screenplay is not without its positives though, which includes good character play/dialogue, interesting developments involving the moon, and an antagonist that I had never seen before. Too bad he screwed everything else up.
Director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego has hit and miss with his direction of this film, giving us awesome atmosphere throughout the film with his usage of awesome sets, namely the surface of the moon and the claustrophobic scenes of our astronauts making themselves at home in their small shuttle. While I usually enjoy the look of POV filmmaking, I was not happy with his execution of this filmming style, which came off quite grainy and lagged a lot as well. Now, I know this film was meant to come off that way so that it can appear that the footage was really shot back then, but I heavily disliked it because it held back the horror, which is the hole point of the darn movie. Lopez-Gallego managed to deliver a few good jolts here and there, and in fairly good fashion, but despite his overall execution of the horror being mostly positive there is just not enough horror in this film. The acting performances are good, each coming from “uncredited” actors, and the usage of the antagonists was positive, although the FX could have been much better (which would have also been scarier) had the film come with a higher budget.
Overall, Apollo 18 is a film with a unique storyline that suffers from a poor screenplay and mediocre execution that kept it from achieving full potential. This really could have been a very scary film and one of the best of the year, but in the end the horror is limited, seldom scary, and nowhere near the level that it should have been.