Movie Review: Apollo 18

Written by David Campos (@magicdave1983)

“It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Those were the words spoken by Neil Armstrong on July 20th, 1969 as he became the first man to set foot on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. That’s quite an achievement to have on your resume. Only 12 people can say they have walked on the moon.  Even though this was a profound human achievement, the last mission to the moon was Apollo 17 in 1972, or was it? At this point, you probably have puzzling questions presenting themselves. Well, the 2011 sci-fi/horror film Apollo 18 has been declassified to give you the answers as to why we have never gone back to the moon. Being Spanish director Gonzalo López-Gallego’s first English-language film, the story follows the secret, government-approved moon mission of Apollo 18, two years after the official public end to the Apollo program.  The three astronauts chosen for the mission are Benjamin Anderson (Warren Christie), Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen), and John Grey (Ryan Robbins).

With a sense of patriotism and duty, our three heroes embark on a mission of a lifetime, all while absolutely no one knows about it. Their mission: plant detectors on the moon to alert the United States of any incoming ICBM attacks by the Soviet Union. Once reaching their destination, Anderson and Walker go to work on the quiet lunar surface. That quiet is soon shaken when strange occurrences begin to happen indicating that they are not alone on the Moon. Their craft is shaken, antennas begin to disappear, rock samples move for no reason and the flag they planted is removed.  The real shock comes when they discover a Soviet lunar lander with a dead Soviet Cosmonaut!  Regardless of knowing that something is off, Mission Control tells them to finish the mission, which they promptly do. On a final investigation before they are to leave, Walker is suddenly overcome by something crawling in his suit, which buries itself into his chest and knocks him out cold. Now being infected, Walker begins to descend into dementia as Anderson tries to keep himself and his companion alive. Shockingly, Walker’s violent outbursts force the duo to traverse the now deadly lunar surface in a battle for survival against an invisible presence that is hunting them in plain view.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Wow, that’s a clever and scary movie idea,” you are right. It is a great movie idea. Sadly, the idea ends up being poorly executed. When story ideas involve secret government projects, we want to know the reasons why? In this case, when did the government learn about the presence on the moon? Why weren’t the astronauts told? There were just too many questions that felt lazily unanswered by the writers. It also didn’t help that some of the audio between the astronauts and Mission Control was hard to understand, especially when you knew they were explaining something important. While the eventual identity of the presence is revealed, there wasn’t enough visual gratification of fully seeing the presence in its true terrifying form. There is one shot that shows a dark shadow rising menacingly, and you know it’s something to be reckoned with, but we are denied to really see it in action. Even though the movie is 90 minutes, it can feel tediously longer and frustrating. The production design was executed brilliantly. The spacecraft was claustrophobic, and even more terrifying in knowing that something is trying to get in. Getting a first-person view of the lunar surface was lonely and creepy to say the least. Overall, the film does give a unique take on the found footage horror genre that has been done by countless others, most recently by the Paranormal Activity franchise. Even so, this is one you can wait to watch in your own home. I’ll say it again: It really was a good idea. I mean imagine trying to get away from something that’s hunting you on the Moon! Where the hell are you going to go?!

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