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Apollo 18

A movie directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego

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This Side of the Moon is Really Dark

  • Sep 3, 2011
Star Rating:

During the 1960s and ‘70s, several missions of the Apollo program were cancelled by NASA. These included Apollos 18, 19, and 20 – the Moon-landing missions. The official reason was budget and scheduling constraints. Apollo 18, the newest discovered-footage mockumentary, is founded on the premise that the Apollo 18 mission actually was launched in December of 1974, only for the crew to never return and for the American government to seal all records of it ever having taken place. This included all recorded footage captured by both specially designed NASA cameras and handheld Super 8s, the latter used exclusively by the astronauts. The group claiming responsibility for latching onto this lost footage and making this film is a website called lunartruth.org, and no, I don’t recommend you log on. The important thing is, we now know why we have never gone on another lunar mission.
The blending of film types makes for an interesting visual experience. Unfortunately, it also exposes a gaping plot hole, and thus shatters the illusion that the movie is actual discovered footage. Half of what we see was captured by the astronauts’ personal cameras, not by the NASA surveillance system, which I guess was sending a feed back to Earth. The astronauts were all lost, which means, obviously, that their handheld cameras didn’t make it back. If it’s true that we’ve never returned to the Moon, then how exactly was their half of the footage recovered? For the sake of argument, let’s say that the cameras were miraculously found, and the tapes from NASA were collected. How in the hell was all of this footage digitized, leaked onto the internet, and released as a film? Suddenly, I want to know more about lunartruth.org. Honestly, who’s running this thing? It can’t possibly be some socially inept, basement-dwelling conspiracy theorist, not when he or she has access to impossible sources.

I now fear I’m applying too much logic. If you can see your way past the glaring technicalities, you’ll find that Apollo 18 is an entertaining little horror film. It does not hit the same stratospheric heights of masterpieces like The Blair Witch Project or the first Paranormal Activity, but I was engaged with the story and the characters, and it has several genuinely frightening moments. Perhaps I was taken with the idea of the Moon being the central location. From there, you can see the Earth, and only by seeing it can you truly appreciate how isolated you really are. If this took place in some distant part of the galaxy, I suspect it would lack that emotional anchor. It would be yet another alien creature feature, where an interstellar crew is stalked on the hallways of an imaginary spaceship. I’m also attracted to horror story set in the past; the more limited the technology, the scarier the situation.
Apart from a few secondary characters seen only in establishing shots, the film is essentially a three-man show. It stars Lloyd Owen, Warren Christie, and Ryan Robbins as American astronauts Nathan Walker, Benjamin Anderson, and John Grey. Their Moon mission begins on, of all days, December 25 (indeed, during the end credits, we don’t hear a suspenseful action cue but rather a solemn piano rendition of the carol “We Three Kings”). As Grey stays in the orbiting shuttlecraft, Walker and Anderson man a module and land on the lunar surface. With the exception of the cameras, of which they brought plenty, I never really got the gist of all the machinery they brought with them. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I was meant to. The footage is all that counts in a movie like this.

Strange things begin to happen, as they always do in movies like this. Anderson notices a set of footprints in the lunar surface, which clearly wasn’t created by himself or by Walker. In one of the film’s best scenes, a terrifying discovery is made in a crater. I won’t say what that discovery is; I will say that, because the crater is engulfed in darkness, Anderson has to resort to continuously snapping flash pictures in order to see. Another set of footprints are found, which are even stranger looking than the first set. Anderson obtains a sample of rock. Walker leaves the module and begins to panic when he realizes that something is moving inside his spacesuit. The tension just keeps on building until it reaches a screeching climax, the details of which I will keep to myself for want of keeping you in suspense.
The true nature of the mission is left a little obscure. It’s not so much that we don’t learn who’s behind it; it’s more a matter of knowing the outcome and yet still feeling as if some vital bit of information has been omitted. In other words, there’s an explanation, but I’m hard pressed to say that there’s a reason. Granted, not even the best-structured screenplay could have made the material any less preposterous, so I suppose it don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Despite the noticeable gaps in the story, and despite the fact that the discovered footage genre has long since ceased to be original, Apollo 18 delivers just enough to make it worthwhile. It has an intriguing premise, it features three decent performances, and best of all, you will get a couple of really good scares.


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September 15, 2011
One thing I forgot in my own review were the glaring technical errors such as shaving on the moon with soap and a safety razor. On all space missions, shaving is done with a special vacuum-assisted electric razor. This conserves water and prevents hair clippings from entering the spacecraft.
September 08, 2011
It does not hit the same stratospheric heights of masterpieces like The Blair Witch Project or the first Paranormal Activity? I must have seen a different Blair Witch or Paranormal as neither of which rings any bells for me. Thanks for the review. I think I'll pass on this for sure.
September 09, 2011
I guess we have different definitions of what is and isn't scary. In any case, your opinion is noted.
September 09, 2011
Honestly, I like your writing style. I think your choice of words or command of the English language is great & you should definitely continue to write reviews or share your opinions on social networking sites. Our opinions on films differ quite a bit but...that makes things more interesting. I try to take what I can from each review be it good or bad & that's how I base my final decision on whether or not to watch. I wouldn't be so arrogant as to say you're opinion here is wrong but the hand-held camera films, hoax films, or found footage videos never do anything for me. If you did like this, I do think you might want to seek out The Last Broadcast or a relativelt unknown film that was received well entitled Under The Raven's Wing which I highly recommend. There are good films which have the "hand-held" camera element but I daresay they probably won't be playing in the local theatres unfortunately.
September 07, 2011
Great review
September 07, 2011
Thanks, although I think I'm sending the reader mixed messages. It's a very flawed movie, and yet I thought it was entertaining.
September 03, 2011
I found this with a lot of ambition, and while I am with you, its claims of 'reality' were lost as soon as I saw those handheld cameras. This had some genuinely creepy moments, but it just didn't hit the spot with me, as there was a lot of things missing in its fictional narrative. Still, quite a bold undertaking and reminded me how I felt about "Open Water" and "The Fourth Kind" (maybe I should stop watching movies such as this). I just couldn't give it a full recommendation but it is definitely worth a look. .
September 03, 2011
I agree that the film is deeply flawed, but I still enjoyed it. Ever since the release of Paranormal Activity, I've been getting more into found-footage mockumentaries. I'm still waiting for The Poughkeepsie Tapes, which has been delayed since 2007. We'll probably never see that in theaters.
More Apollo 18 reviews
review by . September 03, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Movies such as “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity” rely on the power of suggestion in order to generate the feeling of suspense and of a frightening situation. “Apollo 18” takes the same gimmick and suggests that the film has been edited from 84 minutes of actual footage uploaded by an “unknown someone” on the internet. The film suggests that it is real, and that you are about to see some real footage much like what “The Fourth …
review by . September 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*1/2 out of ****     Creepy is as creepy does. You may find what I call "cheap jump scares" to be the real deal, while I consider them to be...well, cheap jump scares. It's all a matter of opinion (or interest, or taste, or all-around decency) whether a horror film truly scares the viewer. There are horror films that I dislike that many others have enjoyed, and oh, I would have loved to love them too. But I can't lie; critics simply cannot do so. However, casual viewers might …
review by . September 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Apollo 18      This is a movie with tremendous potential.  Unfortunately, it was ruined by an insistence upon making the entire movie appear as bad as the actual videos sent from the moon were in the early 1970s.  There was no reason for this.  Ron Howard didn’t have to do that when making Apollo 13.  He understood that it was a film meant to entertain.  That purpose cannot possibly be served by making every scene virtually unwatchable. …
review by . January 08, 2012
APOLLO 18 Breaks Ground As A Guilty Pleasure, At Best
   APOLLO 18:   As I’ve said elsewhere, I think it’s hard not to enjoy a quality conspiracy, and mankind’s only manned off-world moon missions have been the subject of quite a few.  First, there’s the one that claims that the United States never went to moon, that it was all faked, shot on a soundstage somewhere in California, Arizona, or New Mexico.  Then, there’s the one that claims the Apollo missions were actually the cover story; what …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie



Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Release Date: 22 April 2011 (USA)
Screen Writer: Brian Miller, Cory Goodman
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