Synopsis: Officially, Apollo 17, launched December 17th, 1972 was the last manned mission to the moon. But in December of 1974, two American astronauts were sent on a secret mission to the moon funded by the US Department of Defense. What you are about to see is the actual footage which the astronauts captured on that mission. While NASA denies its authenticity, others say itâs the real reason weâve never gone back to the moon.
Release Date: September 2, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Thriller
Apollo 18 follows the crew of the last manned expedition that NASA supposedly sent to the moon. The mission’s commander Nate (Lloyd Owen) and his partner Ben (Warren Christie) are the two unfortunate astronauts who land on the surface to collect some rocks and set-up cameras. Once there, the men experience strange and terrifying feelings of paranoia and fear. First, they think they see things moving on the outside of their capsule. Next, the cameras pick up footage of moon rocks moving on their own. When the astronauts take a walk over to the dark side of the moon, where they lose radio contact with Houston and their orbiting craft, they discover a Russian landing module, complete with a dead cosmonaut. Later that night, their radio is knocked out at their capsule by an unseen force, leaving them with no way to communicate with other people. While trying to fix the transmitter, Nate is attacked. Ben saves him, but the two are left stranded, alone and really freaked out. With no help from the outside world, the astronauts struggle to stay alive, solve the mystery of what attacked Nate and figure out what happened to the Soviet mission.
Apollo 18 is another one of those “found footage” films, supposedly edited together from 84 hours of footage uploaded to an underground website. It purports to be a documentary, and actually has the feel of a good one for the first half or so. Once the threat is discovered, special effects and makeup tricks take over and blow the whole “truth” angle and turn the film into a full-fledged drama. Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego uses an unknown (but still familiar looking) cast to make the faux-documentary more realistic, and his longtime cinematographer Jose David Montero makes most of the shots look like authentic NASA footage. In the hands of experienced horror editor Patrick Lussier (who did the original Scream trilogy as well as some of the later Halloween films), the film comes off as suspenseful and taught; it just isn’t very scary, and it disappoints at the end.
Aside from the closing credits, there is no background music in Apollo 18, and the absence of music helps to make the film seem like a more authentic documentary. The sound team, headed up by veteran horror sound designers Kris Fenske and Matthew Wilson (who both worked on the Showtime “Masters of Horror” series), build tension and suspense by using background noise in place of music. The constant humming and whirring of the spacecraft’s machinery, the pumping of the oxygen tanks and the familiar sound of the film cameras take the place of the music, and the ambient noise has much the same effect as a good score. The astronauts’ breathing and footsteps add a percussive element to the soundtrack that compliments the musical buzz, and the whole aural picture keeps the audience on edge as well (if not better) than any musical composition could.
As maddening as the buildup of tension is in Apollo 18, the film lacks any real bite. The setup is great – two men facing both isolation and their fear of the unknown. The suspense increases nicely over the course of the film, but it never really pays off. There are a handful of starts and shocks, but they are too few and far between for the amount of anxiety that is created, and the viewer just ends up feeling short-changed. Another letdown is the threat itself; the actual antagonist that the astronauts are up against is, once revealed, not very frightening. Apollo 18 does a heart-pounding job at building the tension, but falls short when it comes to actually delivering the screams.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
- Producer(s): Brian MillerCory Goodman
- Cast: Jose David MonteroAndrew Neskoromny
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Image Engine Design
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA