Film review by: Witney Seibold
This is the fourth “found footage” horror film to be released in 2011. We also had the reality show that actually found ghosts with “Grave Encounters,” the student documentary crew that found real monsters in “The Troll Hunter,” and this October’s continuing saga of “Paranormal Activity 3.” Gonzalo López-Gallego‘s “Apollo 18” may not be the spook-fests of those other films, but it does feature the most creative conceit: That there actually was an Apollo 18 moon mission back in the 1970s, which was rigorously filmed, but that it was covered up by the government because of what they found on the videotapes. The tapes have just now been uncovered, and we see why the mission was a secret, and it also goes a long way to explain why we have never returned to the moon. I like the explanation for that from “Apollo 18” much better than the goofy reasons given in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”
Indeed, I appreciated the work given to making this film look like found footage from the 1970s. In a lot of found-footage horror films, we’re given, perhaps, too many well-framed money shots of the monsters to make us believe that this is really being filmed by the people in that situation. That the cameras in this film are mounted on the walls, and we don’t have to deal with the reality that someone had to film all the mayhem, and give the excuse that they “must document this!” All the things we see are captured and edited together by what NASA already had. The editing could have used some work, though; it’s hard to believe any editor would leave in a few seconds of static for dramatic impact.
A trio of astronauts, good-looking, clean-cut types, are sent on a space mission. We see the grainy black-and-white footage of the Houston NASA cameras, as well as their own cosumer-grade videotapes of living in space. They men act like hotshot pilots, and are technically efficient. We know there’s some great reveal coming up, of course, so we, the audience, are on a constant lookout for anything eerie. Our first clue: When on a moonwalk, our heroes find a landed Soviet spacecraft. This is odd, as we know that the Soviets never made it to the moon. They also find a dead cosmonaut! Woah! What’s going on here? And why is NASA being so evasive about direct questioning? And what’s happening in those dark craters?
I don’t want to say what the astronauts find, but they do find… something. It’s a scary thing. And it not only taps into the the gut-churning frights that found-footage films like this do so well, but also feeds a lot of the moon landing conspiracy theories you hear floating about the fringe. It does have something to do with the moon rocks themselves, and there are eerie shots of moon rocks that you never felt you’d be scared by. Then there’s a creepy factoid at the film’s end, reminding us of how many rocks have been brought back from the moon.
The film is one-note, and does strain its welcome at a mere 86 minutes, so it could have been better-paced. Perhaps it would have been even more effective as a short film. As it stands, though, it’s perfectly creepy.