Apparently people are tired of the horror mockumentary. Apollo 18 was greeted last weekend with yawns from the critics. Yet on viewing for at least one member of the audience the film proved to be both entertaining and suspenseful.
Students of NASA and space exploration may note the title and think, "Hey, the moon flights stopped at Apollo 17!" True. The premise of Apollo 18 is that there was indeed another even numbered space flight but was cloaked in secrecy and … ended badly. In the spirit of Blair Witch, the excellent The Last Exorcism, and Paranormal Activity, the film is a collection of edited found footage that sorts out the narrative and leaves various implications unresolved.
Apollo 18 begins with home movie footage of three astronauts at a home BBQ on the eve of their mission. They have classic American names, such as Ben Anderson (Warren Christie) and Nate Walker (Lloyd Owen). They are in Liberty, the LEM that lands, while John (Ryan Robbins) orbits in Freedom. On the moon, the duo discover first a Soviet LEM, and then something else.
Yes, the other reviewers are correct, the premise of Apollo 18 is conventional and maybe even predictable. But to these eyes, the found footage approach worked quite well, was a convincing blend of actual NASA footage and recreations, and the jump cut style endemic to the horror mockumentary leaves out a lot of boring stuff that normal narrative needs to include.
The cast is especially good and undervalued by other reviewers. They look convincing, mimic the "style" of old time astronaut posing, and read the lines credited to writers Brian Miller Cory Goodman with authenticity and conviction. Director Gonzalo López-Gallego and his team also create a convincing moon world of heavy white dust and blinding sun and harsh artificial light.
Though it is a replay of Alien and Planet of the Vampires and other such horror films, Apollo 18 is presented with winning earnestness. As the summer recedes, in calendar if not in weather, and the "mature" and "adult" Oscar whoring films begin to appear, it's nice to have a good, solid, competent Saturday afternoon movie with which to bid farewell to the break.