Theatrical Review: Apollo 18

In 1972, NASA supposedly ended manned moon missions with Apollo 17, but one year later, a covert mission was set up by the Department of Defense for one more trip to the moon.  Chosen to make this mission were astronauts Nathan Walker, Ben Anderson and John Grey, all very enthusiastic to continue NASA’s work, but that enthusiasm fades as the real details of their mission slowly come to light.

That’s the opening premise to Apollo 18, the latest entry in the horror sub-genre of “found footage” movies, and personally, I thought this was a lot of fun, though from what I’m seeing so far, I’m a minority with that.

As I’ve stated in other reviews about films in this sub-genre (Paranormal Activity 2, TrollHunter), I’m a big fan of this type of film.  I like their sense of immediacy and urgency and I really like how they make you watch the little things that you might not normally pay much attention to.  Right from the start, Apollo 18 gives you a pretty logical explanation about why they have so many cameras at work and thanks to director Gonzalo López-Gallego’s attention to set detail, it all looks extremely authentic.

The only real gripe that I have about the film is that I think the effect of the technical deficiencies used in the “found” stock is a little bit over-used, but it’s a small gripe.  That effect is certainly overcome by the above-mentioned attention to detail, some pretty effective “jump scare” scenes and a very nice sense of dread that’s pretty much there right from the start of the film.  In addition, I thought the amplified use of ambient sound was a great touch in punctuating that sense of dread.

Apollo 18 is a short movie, but it’s effectively paced as a slow-burn tension builder.  The real discovery for the astronauts is shown in little glimpses which furthers the tension, and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Showing too much would’ve shown more visible seams, so I think a right balance was found.

Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen and Ryan Robbins play our trio of astronauts and I think they’re all terrific.  Christie and Owen get the majority of the screen time as they’re the two astronauts (Walker and Anderson) who actually make the landing on the moon.  Robbins (as Grey) remains in the command craft, and at least offers some hope of salvation to his comrades.  No they don’t go into any real depth of character, they just hit things in the broadest of strokes, but that’s not the point of the movie.  They look and sound authentic and that certainly adds to the credibility of the situation.

I thought Apollo 18 was a lot of fun.  It’s very well made, it’s short enough that it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and it’s setting and premise is a nice twist on the “found footage” sub-genre.  Of course, that sub-genre is what will be the bone of contention to many viewers.  For the detractors, this won’t offer enough; you won’t get an explanation of events, you won’t get obvious set pieces and you won’t get real depth of character simply due to the immediacy of the situation as it’s presented.  If you don’t care for this type of film, well, I seriously doubt my review will change anyone’s mind. I had a great time with it, and if you’re a fan of this type of film, I’d certainly recommend giving Apollo 18 a chance.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

03. September 2011 by Darren Goodhart
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