"Apollo 18" lacks suspense, fails to frighten
The moon has always been a notorious symbol of peace and solitude in the darkness. A ﬂorescent orb amongst the thousands of stars, it is a mysterious satellite that encompasses at night all the mightiness of the sun at day. The movie “Apollo 18” plays on the mystique of the moon and attempts to transform it into sheer terror, a very original idea. However, it falls short on many, many levels.
Film has unknown characters, unclear motives
At the beginning of the ﬁlm we are informed by white text over a black screen that several daysʼ worth of footage has been recovered and uploaded to the world wide web by the seemingly anonymous and completely fictional “LunarTruth.com.” This footage depicts the top secret mission of Apollo 18 and has been edited into a movie by, again, anonymous conspiracist desseminators.
Clarification of how they came by the recordings is as absent as their identities, and the explanation of why they felt compelled to polish the raw tapes into a feature is unknown as well. These answers are arguably unnecessary, but they wouldnʼt have hurt. They could have brought more substance to the scarce plot.
Story lacks anticipated suspense
The opening minutes of “Apollo 18” are well-directed and authentic, but also uneventful. They are purely meant for narrative establishment, though one could hardly call it a narrative in the traditional sense. What I liked about this ﬁlmʼs distant relatives “Paranormal Activity” and “Quarantine” is that they make a point to incorporate story into their suspense, something “Apollo 18” lacks considerably.
Through brief introductory interviews we meet ﬁctional astronauts John Grey, Ben Anderson and Nate Walker. The three are ecstatic for their mission despite the suspicious confidentiality surrounding it and the daunting control of the Department of Defense.
Soon, but not soon enough, they touch down on the barren, crater-ﬁlled landscape of the moon. Ben and Nate are in charge of gathering samples at ground-level while John remains airborne and locked in orbit. It takes a while for anything strange to happen, but when it does ... it underwhelms.
The technology around the men seems to be randomly, not eerily, malfunctioning and the motion-sensor camera they plant outside the module captures what looks like moving rocks and vague shadows. The fact that something is there is meant to be frightening, but the audience does not receive sufﬁcient visual proof of foreboding entities. We are meant to only have a “feeling” something is there just as the two characters do, but what is so effective about “Paranormal Activity” is that we as the audience see through the camera things the characters do not. In “Apollo 18” we are just as lost and confused as the astronauts.
Eventually, the creepiness begins as Ben and Nate ﬁnd footprints that arenʼt their own. They are led to an abandoned Soviet module and the plot thickens, but not before the ﬁlm supplies its greatest scare down in the depths of a pitch-black crater. Before long the two men suspect foul intentions from their superiors on earth who reassure them that theyʼll be going home soon. But when Nate is mysteriously injured by something that found its way into his suit, Ben begins to realize that they were sent to the moon as “guinea pigs” by the U.S. government. NASA wants to study the apparent extraterrestrial life at the mortal risk of Apollo 18.
"Apollo 18" falls short of expectations
Long story short, Nateʼs wound begins to drive him mad, a potentially scary scenario poorly utilized by the screenwriters. And neither were the sinister aliens, for that matter. I will not divulge what they were exactly or how the ﬁlm ends, but both were disappointments. I also expected them to play on the fact that the module and space travel in general is very claustrophobic, but I felt mysteriously comfortable the whole time. Needless to say, I was extremely let down. I criticize “Apollo 18” with a heavy heart as I had high hopes for itʼs marvelous horror premise. I left the theatre thinking to myself “It had so much potential ...”
As a child the fabled “man in the moon” always scared me a bit. Now, even after seeing a ﬁlm that was intended to frighten audiences and launch itself as a prominent reason why one would fear the lunar body, I am still more chilled by that man in the moon than by anything I saw in those 88 minutes. I give “Apollo 18” two out of five, a harsh score for its failure to live up to its hype, to its companion ﬁlms of space terror, and most of all to itself.