Apollo 18

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Apollo 18
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Apollo 18
Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller
Apollo 18 Productions
September 2nd, 2011
Release length: 1:28:00
Website
Imagine, if you will, that the Apollo missions actually were not scapped, and there were more then what the common U.S. citizen is aware of. That’s essentially the story of Apollo 18. The concept with this film is that these missions did not stop, but yet this was the last for obvious reasons which we, as Americans, will find out through this recently dug up footage from what occurred on the moon to this group of astronauts. With the popularity of found footage films increasing thanks to the Paranormal Activity franchise (though, really, those are not found footage films, but made out to be by many) and The Blair Witch Project, the one to really throw this style of film making into the popular media, though definitely far from the first, it seems there’s always a new movie of this style that does not really have much of a unique approach to it. However, with the concept being stranded on the moon, can Apollo 18 be the first film in quite some time of this style to have an original concept to it, or are we looking at more well executed patterned thrills and chills?

After the film shows what appears to be audition tapes for the men to go up in space, introducing the characters, we’re immediately thrown into the landing of the astronauts on the moon. Out three main characters of the film are Commander Nathan Walker and Ben Anderson who are paired together in the “Freedom”, and then there seems to be another character in the “Liberty”, which I don’t know the name of due to getting into the theater later but apparently is there since they reference both this part as well as Houston, the Nasa facility back on Earth (for anyone not familiar with what Houston has anything to do with space travel for some reason). They later do establish his name as John, who ends up trying to help him Ben at the end. This other person seems to appear at times in the film as well, which becomes a little obvious due to the change of scenery. Due to the quality of the film the astronauts are using, it can sometimes be hard to tell who is who outside of their distinctive voices, especially when on the surface since you can’t see through the mask unless the camera is basically up close looking in.

But, “Liberty” really plays no major role in the film anyhow as the main story revolves around Nathan and Ben. The concept is these astronauts go on a secret mission, which they pretty much start the second they land on the surface, examining rocks, planting a flag, as well as setting up a motion sensing camera. When the crew sleeps, this camera plays a role in capturing odd noises, which are eventually credited more as interference, but clearly sound like an alien creature. This bit of film is spliced in more during the times in the script when the astronauts are asleep, and even when woken up by what’s going on outside. The film is just under ninety minutes, and luckily they start the action rather quick, but keep it at a slower pace to try to expand the bond between these two characters.

The development of Ben and Nathan is not the greatest, but you get the general idea that these two have been training together for a while for this mission, and that they get along for the most part. You get a sense of what Nathan is like now, which is kind of important given his shift of attitude later on, but really you don’t quite feel the need to care much about the characters safety outside of Ben, mostly for his concern for his family back home, and later his determination to get back home to them. There are moments that highlight and try to grow the bond a bit more, such as Ben filming Nathan as he sleeps to prove to him he really does snore, which he jokes about prior to that and citing it the reason why his wife actually left him.

Throughout the film, the footage is shot in three different ways, both producing various images. You have the main visual to Houston which is a little clearer but choppier visually. The slow motion camera seems to have a higher resolution and keeps up with the movement. The cameras that the astronauts use themselves, however, end up being a little poorer quality. Unless you’re up close, sometimes you can have difficulty figuring out who you are looking at through these cameras, and there’s a lot of grain and blotches to the film of those cameras sometimes as well making it harder to see what’s good on with a decent clarity. Given that the film itself is far from recent, a plot synopsis stating “decades-old”, it makes sense it wouldn’t be crystal clear in any of the three methods, so you can’t really fault the film for the resolution, as well as any wear and tear displayed during the film considering it’s supposed to have been on the moon for quite a while, and may not be up to the best of quality. However, given there’s no atmosphere or wind on the moon, why there would be deterioration is questionable unless you take the cold climate into consideration, but even then you’d imagine the film would be better then it appears in the movie.

Much of the action is told through the film of those little cameras, especially when outside. The astronauts do go onto the surface quite a lot to take samples and basically do some exploring. As the film goes on, they find an old Russian ship that had landed there at some point, and upon inspecting inside fine a decent amount of blood. There’s also some odd footprints outside, when they continue to find more of later. Some of the best footage caught by these cameras if when Ben goes into the pitch black craters and takes photographs. The light from the flash makes everything look really nice with stark contrasts between the pitch black and bright whites, and when he finds the remains of the Russian astronaut, it winds up being slightly shocking, though you expect the remains to be found, just not so vividly. The Department of Defense eventually is brought into the mix, and admits they knew of the Russians sending a ship, but they masked it as a satellite launch.

This lends to a distraction from what everyone expects of the story. Things continue to go bump in the night while they sleep, and the astronauts do believe that there may have been a second Russian astronaut on that ship, and that he or she may still be out there messing with everything, such as destroying the American flag, and dragging the motion sensing camera into the a crater. But, just as quickly as this idea is brought in, Nathan ends up exploring the outside to inspect any damage while they talk about heading back to Earth, and find that something made it’s way into the suit. While he has forgotten about it later on in the ship, Ben finds a huge gash on Nathan, which leads to one of the first real suspenseful moments of the film. Ben realizes there is something inside it and manages to pull it out. The cut does lead an infection, which later changes Nathan into a paranoid, psychotic man who starts destroying the cameras they realized earlier are monitoring them like guinea pigs. The two try to make it to the Russian craft to get home, but Nathan refuses to leave, building a character that is hard to discern as heroic, or drawn there due to the infection. This leads to the next suspenseful scene of Nathan being pulled into an open crater and Ben going in after him. There are shots of the camera’s light that end up more to the side from Nathan’s camera that is lying on the ground, but when they show the alien creatures, which are actually the rocks on the moon’s surface, the effects are actually pretty nice, but at the same time really do look computer generated and end up clashing a bit with the film quality for that era.

Ben makes it back to the ship to learn Houston refuses to bring him home despite not being infected. He pleades with Houston to bring him home safely. But, in the end, John, the other astronaut, tells him to get back into orbit with the Russian ship and he’ll get him home. But this isn’t the end as Nathan comes up to the ship and takes the hammer he used to destroy stuff back at “Freedom” to the window in order to to break in, allowing for one last scare as the rocks are inside of his suit and do something to his face…possibly devouring it or making it explode, you really cannot tell. John is told by the D.o.D. to leave Ben behind and that he’s infected, but in the end it doesn’t really matter and the obvious conclusion of the film occurs, then leads into some text and home movie footage that explain this mission was never put on record and what the official word on each astronaut’s death is, obviously playing to cover-up conspirists everywhere. It also tells how many rocks (in weight) were brought back to Earth, and how many are missing today.

Overall, Apollo 18 is really not that bad a film, especially for a found footage type of movie. The acting in it is not the greatest really, but there are moments you start to feel for Ben’s character. The special effects for the aliens are a little too flashy, but the movie uses a good deal of authentic stock footage to helps to make the film as visually realistic as possible. But, if it’s not stock footage, the makers of the sets did a good job at replicating it. The story goes at a decent pace and never really bores the audience, though the character development wasn’t the greatest, though again it’s a found footage film so character development is never the best as it relies on the fact that you’re typically looking at the last day of “real people” and hope you sympathize with their plight. Of course walking in you know what the fate of these astronauts are from the start, but given the desolate setting you can’t help but feel for them a little more then you would someone lost in the woods or other such areas. The other element of the film that sticks out is the aliens actually being the rocks on the surface, which may sound cheesy but makes for a bit of a more believable concept then other hidden alien based science fiction films out there. Also the ploy of the filmmakers feeding into today’s conspiracy driven world does make one genuinely wonder if there were more missions to the moon that may never have been put on record.

But perhaps the biggest question that you can ask from this film is a rather simple one that really ends up hurting the film right from the second you hear about the movie and find is never answered. If this is the answer to why we never went back to the moon, then how the hell did we get the footage back?

Overall Score: 7/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.