Dir. by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego - 1 hr. 26 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
"Apollo 18" isn't a bad movie. For what it is, it's not bad at all. And, for the record, what it is is low-budget horror/sci-fi movie with a conceit that could have come out of the 1950's. The material isn't approached in an-over-the-top manner, but that's a double-edged sword.
The idea of the film is that someone has anonymously uploaded eighty-four hours of footage from a secret NASA mission in the 1970's to the internet (for those that aren't history buffs, there were only seventeen Apollo missions). That "found" footage was then edited down into this film, "Apollo 18." It's definitely "The Blair Witch Project" in space. As the manned mission to the moon continues, things start to go haywire. It becomes apparent that the two men who have been sent to the moon (there is a third who stays in orbit the entire time) have been sent under false pretenses. I don't think it'd be spoiling the movie to say that things end badly; no one does a fake documentary that ends up awesomely for everyone involved.
The first thing that was done well here was to cast people who aren't immediately recognizable. The three main characters, Captain Anderson (Warren Christie), Lieutenant Colonel Grey (Ryan Robbins), and Commander Walker (Lloyd Owen) are anonymous enough not to immediately blow the faux-documentary conceit of the film. And in general, I respond better to science-fiction material than I do straight horror material. One of the cool things here is that you get to see vintage space-exploration ephemera casually presented. A lot of time is spent in the shuttle (and there's also a Russian shuttle shown, as well), and it's kind of neat to see nuts and bolts stuff presented.
But a lot of the success of the film hinges on the double-edged sword I mentioned earlier. This is a low-budget movie (made for around $5 million), and all of the things that allow a film to get made for such a modest budget (non-star actors, the documentary approach, not requiring locations to shoot at) also end up hampering the movie. The lack of storytelling flourishes that could make things more interesting (there's not even a soundtrack, much less any kind of liberties taken with editing technique) wind up leaving things to fall flat at times. And especially when you're dealing with a story that's fairly predictable (at least in broad strokes), anything that might have distracted from the long, straight road that you as a viewer are on would have been appreciated. Even the ending is something out of a scare-film; what happened here could happen in your town! To someone you love! Or maybe even you!
Like I wrote before, "Apollo 18" isn't a bad movie. It's predictable, doesn't aim for much, and other than the space equipment, the scenery isn't presented in a particularly impressive manner. But it's short, hits the points it has to in order to function, and at least the idea of secret NASA missions isn't a bad one. And though I know this is faint praise, you could probably do worse.
2 / 5 - Theatre