Apollo 18 is supposedly made up of genuine footage of a secret NASA mission to the moon in which three astronauts encounter something sinister up where Wallace and Gromit had a grand day out.
Paranormal Activity has a lot to answer for. One low-budget success will inevitably spawn a herd of imitators, trying to emulate the format that produces big box office from a tiny investment and thus the found footage horror genre is reborn. Apollo 18 is not all bad, but the negatives far outweigh, and often cancel out, the positives.
On the positive side Apollo 18 tries to change the formula slightly, moving the setting from the horror of suburbia to the horror of the moon. Who isn’t scared of the moon? There’s all those… rocks. Sadly this is the only part of the formula they change, the slow burning plot of a few minor scares spaced out thinly over the length of the film, capped off by an underwhelming climax, are all too familiar. The film is so painfully slow there should be an option available to be put in suspended animation until the closing credits.
Only one scene, in which the astronauts explore a crater using an occasional flash to light their way, is particularly innovative. The intermittent illumination created some beautiful shots and allowed a sense of dread to build rapidly, you never knew what horror the next flash might reveal. Unfortunately all this good work was again undone by using the same technique twice in the film. Magicians are told to never perform a trick twice to the same audience or risk it losing the magic second time around, the same can easily be said in film-making.
Apollo 18 also deserves credit for making the footage look properly “found”; picture quality is all over the place and the presence of all the cameras is justified, which makes a nice change. If footage were ever found of a secret NASA mission then this is what it would look like. Regrettably authenticity doesn’t always make a film aesthetically pleasing or easy to watch. Faux super 8 and surveillance camera footage work well in brief segments in a film but when extended over a full feature can become tiresome. And tiresome they inevitably became. Besides, it is hard to believe that this is genuine footage when you recognise Lloyd Owen from Monarch of the Glen.
All these other factors aside, what lies at the core of a horror film is the reveal of what has been lurking in the shadows. I won’t spoil Apollo 18 for you, but suffice to say that the evil revealed to be lurking on the moon is utterly ridiculous. Really, really stupid. Unbelievably absurd.
I can’t go on, this film is just too farcical.