Apollo 18

3 Oct

Title: Apollo 18
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Gonzalo López-Gallego
Writer: Brian Miller
Starring: 
Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins, Ali Liebert
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, some disturbing sequences, and language
Runtime: 
86 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 
22%

I give letter grades to all of the movies I review so that I can give them some sort of quantifiable categorization that helps me when I put them into my rankings. When I assign a grade it kind of goes like this: The ones in the A family of grades are the ones that I seriously loved and will sing their praises to the high heavens, with the A+’s being the films that I would consider masterpieces or something damn near that; the B family are the ones that I liked a fair bit, B+’s ones that I would seriously recommend and B- being ones that have at least one redeeming quality that make them worth watching; the C range are the ones that I wouldn’t recommend; and then there’s the D range of grades in my system, I don’t give those all that much, just 13 out of the 210 films of last year that I reviewed got one, but it means that they are simply horrible films that don’t work in any kind of level and that I actually hated and will go out of my way to get people to avoid watching them. Apollo 18 is a film that firmly belongs in this latter category.

Honestly, this film tries to achieve an effect like the one the first Paranormal Activity had when it came out, giving us footage that it presents as real to try and send chills down our spine, but this one is just plain boring and even though it lasts a harmless eighty-six minutes it still feels like a half hour too long, I just really really hated the whole experience of having to watch this. What the film intends to show is a story constructed with footage of a secret mission to the moon NASA conducted after their last officially known lunar expedition, Apollo 17. It even got to the point in which the actual NASA felt the need to clarify before this film’s release that even though the posters and ads were advertising this to be made from actual footage, it was a work of fiction. That shouldn’t have been necessary considering it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this whole ordeal is not a documentary, it’s just a dumb faux-docu film about some mysteries that lie on the moon that we’re not supposed to know about.

It’s just a horrible combo of science-fiction horror and a kind of conspiracy thriller that wants us to believe no one noticed a rocket going into space in 1974, and that someone three decades after the fact decided to upload eighty-four hours of footage of said manned mission online, even though we never get the identity of whoever uploaded it, and that what the astronauts found has been kept under wrapped ever since. Yes, these are the sort of implausibilities Apollo 18 wants us to blindly believe, and they’re plenty and they’re all pretty dumb, and I usually don’t mind giving into all of these kooky and impossible scenarios if the film is well executed and makes it easy to look past the gaps in the reasoning, but the execution of this one is just plain bad, with Spanish filmmaker Gonzalo López-Gallego delivering some crappy direction, first-time feature-length writer Brian Miller giving us a script full of all these sort of huge cracks on its surface and not even producer Timur Bekmambetov (who gave us Wanted, which was a film that also had a lot of holes but that was just so kinetic and fun that it was really easy to love) could embed in this one some sense of quality to keep it form failing like it did.

What’s worse is that if you wanted to make a spooky mockumentary movie this really wasn’t a bad place to go to. I mean, space can be inherently creepy (we’ve all seen Alien) but this one, if anything, tries too hard. I mean, when you look at the best-known found-footage horror films, like the aforementioned Paranormal Activity as well as The Blair Witch Project and even last year’s The Last Exorcism (to which I gave a B to) you can see that they’re all films that really know how to build up their tension, which is an aspect in which Apollo 18 seriously fails. Those films know how to use the more sort of static shots that get us as an audience into that first-person mode that really amps up the sense of claustrophobia of the overall experience, this film instead has all these crappy shots that try too much to manipulate a scare out of us while being paired up with just overbearing sounds and it just ends up to be boring as hell really.

That’s really the word I would use to describe Apollo 18: “boring”. And considering this is supposed to be a horror film, that’s pretty much the worst word one could use for it, and when it’s not boring it’s just plain annoying. It never really gets the whole found-footage tactic to work even in the least of ways and it never once manages to offer a single scare, and once you get to see the aliens you’ll actually laugh at how ridiculous they look. This is just a really bad film, one that got me really frustrated at how it never even attempted to cover up some of the many implausibilities it left open and that just failed to accomplished every objective it set out to achieve.

Grade: D

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