Apollo 18 (2011)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Apollo 18</strong> (2011)

(In theatres, September 2011)  As a certified space exploration geek, I have to admit that as much as I don’t like the conspiracy-mongering mockumentary intent of Apollo 18, the notion of a secret mission to the moon does hit a sweet spot somewhere in my brain.  I’m unaccountably fascinated by stories blending hard-SF with horror (see Event Horizon, Blood Moon, etc.) and Apollo 18 adds another layer of interest by choosing to show its story using found footage.  Unfortunately, interesting doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with good and as the film ended after merely 85 minutes, I felt as if I had spent more time second-guessing the director’s choices rather than enjoying the film itself.  The biggest problem, obviously, is the script: From the pedestrian lines of dialogue, the mortally slow first act, the lack of twists and turns (save for one unexpected lunar lander), ridiculous threat and a conclusion that ends like most found footage horror movies have done since The Blair Witch Project, this is a thin, weak and predictable film.  Even in terms of secret space program science-fiction, it has fewer good things running for it than the first ten minutes of Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (and I don’t praise the Transformers series lightly)  But even allowing for a script that’s more promising than well-executed, it’s really the film’s pseudo-documentary approach that kills it.  The opening and closing title cards are annoying in their insistence that What you saw was real (yeah, like anyone could miss a secret mission to the Moon), and the subjective-camera thing becomes a problem more than an advantage: It places a filter on the experience of the film that a more conventional direction would have eliminated.  (It doesn’t help that by the final five minutes, we’re seeing camera angles that can’t exist, and that the conclusion makes it impossible to answer the question “Where did they get the footage from?”)  So, yes, don’t be surprised to find yourself constantly wishing for the film to have been made another way.  It makes Apollo 18 a curiosity, perhaps even a marginal recommendation for SF/horror fans, but certainly not a good film for the ages.  Parts of it are ingenious, though, and there aren’t that many other films with a cast list of merely three people.

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