Anchor Bay // 2011 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // January 2nd, 2012
There's A Reason We've Never Gone Back To The Moon.
"I can feel my thoughts...fragmenting."
History tells us that the planned Apollo 18 moon landing was cancelled in 1974, with the astronauts assigned to other missions. History lied. The truth is that shortly after the mission was publicly cancelled, the astronauts involved were secretly advised the mission would still be going ahead.
However, the top-secret mission resulted in such a startling discovery that the United States shelved all plans for a return to the moon, and all evidence of the mission was destroyed -- or so it was believed. For now, after editing over 100 hours of footage, the pertinent events of the doomedApollo 18 moon landing are now available to reveal the truth to the whole world.
Let's start this review in a positive fashion by giving director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego his due: with Apollo 18 he does an excellent job of creating a found footage film that at least appears authentic. Working with a severely limited budget, Lopez-Gallego and his crew are able to give a real sense of the cramped conditions of life aboard the space shuttle, whilst simultaneously capturing the vast emptiness of space.
And those, right there, are just about the only positives I can find with this movie, as beyond that everything else is mediocre at best. It's a shame, too, as the premise is actually ripe for a good shocker.
The problem is that, rather than building up a sense of dread, Apollo 18 just bores; and what should be intriguing developments completely fail to make their intended impact. Normally that would be bad enough, yet nothing can compare to the disbelief one feels when the big reveal is finally made. Chances are anyone with even a passing interest in this film will have stumbled across its big secret (thanks a lot, Internet), but I'll still not spoil it for anyone who has managed to remain spoiler free. Instead, I'll simply question how anyone could ever consider this to be scary, when in truth it is more likely to induce fits of laughter. Worse still, after the big reveal is made (around the 42-minute mark), there's still another 40-plus minutes to go -- despite the fact that the narrative has absolutely nothing else to offer. In fact, the longer the film drags on, the more it loses sight of what made it at least appear unique in the first place, as events take an all-too-familiar turn. I'm still unsure how it's possible, but even at a mere 87 minutes, Apollo 18 becomes a test of endurance few will make it through.
As I have already alluded towards, the film is a success in terms of its visuals. Indeed, some of the imagery here is actually quite memorable -- in particular, the scene where the astronauts find an abandoned capsule. Shot in stark black-and-white, it makes for a surprisingly menacing image that the rest of the film fails to build upon. This apparent aptitude towards delivering a strong visual extends to the makeup effects work, which really is impressive, and befitting of a much better film. The small cast proves adequate, but nobody really stands out -- thanks in no small part to their one-dimensional roles and ropey dialogue.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer uses various sources to produce an intentionally inconsistent picture. As such, while it hardly produces demo material, it does accurately reflect the director's intended look. The 5.1 soundtrack is perhaps the most effective part of the film, with crisp dialogue and a smart use of sound effects within a roomy mix.
Director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego provides a solid enough commentary track, yet fails to deliver a convincing argument for his film's existence. Beyond that, the supplemental materials are made up of deleted and alternative scenes.
Built around a premise that simply doesn't pass muster, Apollo 18 is perhaps the most unnecessary entry into the found footage genre yet, and represents scare-free horror at its most banal.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Scenes
* Official Site