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TAC Reviews...Apollo 18

Date Posted: 28/01/15

 

The Last Mission to the Moon is Aired in Apollo 18, a 2011 Horror, in which the mission's footage is "found" and released to show the real truth about what happened on that final mission

 

Apollo 18

 

I like a lot of different types of films, I just think what I enjoy depends on my mood at the time, for example I think a person has to be in a very special mood if they are going to watch the Hellraiser films (epecially the first two).  Apollo 18 was a film I went and saw with a friend of my skin sack, because he wanted to see it and honestly I had nothing else to do at the time.

 

My god I wish I'd had something else to do that day...

 

Filmed in the mockumentary style of The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield, the film was made using handheld and fixed location cameras. It is based around the premise that the lost footage of the final manned mission to the moon had been discovered and edited to show what took place.

 

Officially Apollo 18 was just one of several cancelled missions to the moon, however, in 2011 the footage of that mission was “discovered and released”. The footage was not added to, the filmmakers only reedited it in order to create the film the audience is about to watch.

 

So, the truth then…in December 1974, three astronauts led by Commander Nathan Walker, along with Lieutenant Colonel John Grey and Captain Benjamin Anderson are told that they are going to be heading to the moon on Apollo 18. The mission is being overseen by the Department of Defence and has been classified as top secret. Therefore in secret the three are launched into space, with presumably no one noticing the rocket being constructed, moved into position on the launch pad, launched, or the fact that there was a rocket on the launch pad on day then it was gone the next. But let’s just run with it and not worry about those little facts too much.

 

Several days into the mission Walker and Anderson successfully detach from the command module Freedom leaving Grey onboard, whilst they manage to land safely on the surface of the moon onboard the landing craft Liberty. Thus far the tag line for the film “there’s a reason we never went back” seems to indicate that we didn’t go back because it was a long way to go just to look at some rocks, and indeed this trend continues for a bit during the misson. On their first day the mission is initially routine as the two set up some Defence Department equipment but things take a turn for the stranger whilst exploring the surrounding area when they discover a dead cosmonaut and a Soviet LK Lander. This is more than a little strange because officially the Russians never made it to the moon, so presumably they were also able to build a rocket, launch it into space and no one on Earth noticed. Are people really that unobservant?? Presumably so, but I digress, Walker and Anderson query the presence of the lander, but are told to simply continue the mission.

 

On the second day they are preparing to leave when the Liberty is damaged by something mysterious and whilst surveying the outside Walker starts screaming and turns around just in time for Anderson to glimpse a spider-like creature crawling inside his helmet. The nightmare is just beginning as Walker and Anderson try to escape the moon’s surface and meet up with Grey in Freedom as their oxygen dwindles and strange creatures on the lunar surface become increasingly aggressive.

 

In recent years filmmakers have started favouring the ‘mockumentary’ style of filming, and in some cases claiming that the footage was not shot using actors. The Blair Witch Project was the pioneer of this technique, with J.J. Abrams adopting it for the hugely successful Cloverfield. In Apollo 18 this technique is employed again, the opening sequence informs the audience that everything they are about to see is real, however, fans of Stargate Atlantis may recognise Ryan Robbins (who plays John Grey) as Genii soldier Ladon Radim which essentially blows the whole ‘this is real footage’ claim out of the water.

 

Acting wise the three main cast members do a reasonable job of convincing the audience that they are really stuck on the moon with very little, to no chance, of returning and the grim realisation of exactly why they were sent up there in the first place.

 

The problems with Apollo 18 are many so let’s crack on with them.

 

One of the key issues with Apollo 18 is that is really lacks any real scares, there are a few moments when the audience will jump, but like most horror films they are jumps that the audience will see coming from a mile away. The creatures themselves would probably be frightening if they were crawling around inside a space suit, but inside the lunar lander, a moon boot should be more than sufficient to deal with them as would a fly swatter if anyone had thought to bring one. Basically the creatures are bugs, large(ish) bugs admittedly but bugs none-the-less, you have moon boots so just squash them already. There is a moment towards the end when Anderson is making his escape, when the creatures, which can disguise themselves as rocks (spoiler alert), float up in the zero-g environment and he looks around as the camera goes black and we hear him screaming. I swear the scene is ripped straight from Ace Ventura When Nature Calls when Ace has gone over a waterfall, emerges from a river proclaiming that he is alive, only for a crocodile to rise up in the water beside him and for him to glace sideways at it before proceeding to wrestle it. The Apollo 18 scene is basically the same, a bloke has survived something that should have killed him, and is laughing when something appears to kill him. Seriously, all it needed was for him to glance around and mutter “...oh bollocks…” and I would have sworn the film was intended to be a horror-spoof that fell really short of that expectation.

 

In addition look carefully at the poster I used for this article’s main image. What do you notice about it? There is a human boot print and a three-toed print of similar size. But at no point in the film do we see a creature that could have made that print, all of the creatures are basically spider-crab hybrids, and not one of them creates a foot print that looks like the one on the poster. Having something like that in the poster suggests that either the film makers were originally intending to have larger and varied creatures but funding was pulled or no one could be asked to create a monster with that footprint so the idea was dropped but as the poster had already been created they decided to leave it. Or such gimmicks were used simply to bring people to the cinema without worrying about what those people would think of the film.

 

Whilst there are more problems with Apollo 18 than someone could shake a stick at, the biggest problem with the film is the overhanging question of how exactly the footage was recovered. It was done on film cameras, which at one point one of the astronauts is loading into a bag as evidence of what has been happening, so he can return it to Earth with him and considering the ending (which is not exactly hard to guess) will leave the audience to wonder how any of the footage they have just sat through was actually recovered. It may have been that the handheld cameras were actually recording and streaming back to Earth, which considering 1974 technology and that it is hard enough to get a descent wireless signal from a router in the next room in 2014, is unlikely. But perhaps because it is NASA they have got a really good wireless connection. Or perhaps, the lunar lander and command module had black box recorders which NASA was somehow able to retrieve.

 

Whilst not a complete waste of the audience’s time it is difficult to understand why no one went back to the moon, especially considering if they simply took a can of bug spray and/or a fly swatter they would probably have made it back to Earth without too much trouble.

 

Thus, Apollo 18 is decidedly average, yes it was trying to give us a scary sci-fi found footage film but it is sadly lacking in scares and has plot holes so big you could fly a Saturn Rocket through them, however, it is a popcorn movie. Put it on in the background when with friends catch up on one another’s lives and occasionally glance at it.

 

As a result my Thumb is lazily holding Horizontal

 

 

4/10 - A below average horror film but if you are fan of the "found footage" genre then check it out but don't expect to be scared and expect to spend the whole film wondering why they just don't stamp on the moon-bugs already

 

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© Chris Sharman