Director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s “Apollo 18” is the latest in the trend of found footage horror films that was made popular by “The Blair Witch Project” and was recently brought back to theaters by the hugely successful “Paranormal Activity.”
The premise of the movie is simple. You know how Apollo 18 was canceled, making the last official lunar mission directed by NASA Apollo 17? In the reality of “Apollo 18,” that mission was never actually canceled. Instead, Apollo 18 made a top-secret trip to the moon that ended with horrifying results.
The film follows astronauts Benjamin Anderson (Warren Christie) and Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen) during their mission to collect lunar samples on the moon. As their time on the moon passes, there is a continuous stream of frightening and unexplainable events that lead to the realization that rock samples were not what NASA was after.
Overall, I felt like this movie gave me my money’s worth. Despite a choppily formatted beginning that left me bored and uninterested, things eventually picked up, and I was most assuredly scared out of my mind once the movie was about 30 minutes in and I didn’t feel robbed of $7.
The things that really aid “Apollo 18” is its delightfully'70s setting. This vintage feeling means the film never feels like it's grasping for new-age space technology that the CGI budget couldn’t quite handle; the movie feels like a glimpse into a scandal made more interesting by the recent end of the U.S. space program.
Apollo 18 also has some great shock moments. If you aren’t a fan of things jumping out at you, then this isn’t the movie for you. One of the scenes is lit entirely by the flashes from one of the astronaut’s cameras, which leads to the sequence having an unnatural and thoroughly frightening feeling of unearthliness that is perfect for a thriller set on the moon.
That being said, the movie was a bit of a disappointment in terms of actual longevity with audiences. Despite a consistent feeling of foreboding, some overwhelming tension and a few great initial scares, “Apollo 18” falls flat on its face.
The movie's scares are eventually killed by its pacing; the ball never seems to get rolling. Combine a slow plot with a monster that’s about as frightening as some moon rocks, and you have a movie that’s really only good for Redbox or date night.