Apollo 18 (2011)
(15) Running time: 86 minutes
Director: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Writers: Brian Miller, Cory Goodman
Starring: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen,
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
The official word from NASA is that the last Apollo Space Mission to the Moon was Apollo 17, however, we are presented here with what is made to look like real footage from a secret Apollo 18 mission. It was meant to be so real to the point that recently even the studio’s releasing the film claimed it was actual footage! It is up to you if you want to believe that, but what I will say is that director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego has made some very impressive moves in making you believe that this could actually be real footage. The film is presented to us as a snippet of hours of footage discovered last year of three astronauts who did, in fact, go on an 18th Apollo mission, a mission kept from the public due to the horrors that we see in this film, a secret kept from the public for good reason…
Apollo 18 is the latest in a long line of found footage horror which I, personally, can’t get enough of. So much can still be done with this style of making a horror, and with the recent Troll Hunter and even the creepy Grave Encounters, there is proof that this genre of horror is far from running out of ideas. The only issue is that those who struggle with this type of filming will certainly struggle with Apollo 18. This is messy beyond belief, the whole film presented as snippets, jumps and bad editing, grainy images, burnt images, faded visuals due to light exposure, rolling pictures and distorted sounds are all here, but if you like this sort of stuff, Apollo 18 is without a doubt one of the best found footage experiences you are ever likely to have. The director does not leave any tricks out here in making this look as real, and authentic as possible, It may grate on the lesser patient viewer as the story quickly unfolds, but once the tension starts, you will be lucky if you find chance to breathe, let alone complain at the constant onslaught of messy visuals.
Three astronauts head off to the Moon on a secret NASA Mission, two of them will land on the Moon whilst the other will wait in the Moons orbit for them to complete their mission, and allow them to fly back up and all three can return home. The astronauts themselves are very believable, and upset at having to leave their families and lie to them as to where they are going. Lots of stock videos are used here from real space mission to really give the film a truly realistic look and feel, and the designs of both the spaceship and the Moon itself are very impressive. Being a mission which set off in the early seventies, extra care has gone into making the film look and feel like its from that era, from the clothes the guys wear to even a recording made by one of them using a tape recorder to tape songs off the radio, but his Son managed to record a ‘love you Dad’ message over the top by mistake. Gonzalo-Lopez has really put in a ton of effort to make his chiller real, and weather you enjoy this film or not, you have to give him due respect for his attention to detail. Once landed on the Moon, the two astronauts find a Russian space shuttle, some footprints, dark craters and something altogether more horrific…
The actual filming on the Moon itself is very very impressive indeed, you really do feel like you are on the Moon and one particular shot of Earth in the distance suddenly gave me a terrible feeling of loneliness and the uncertainty of being that far away from home, the effects are THAT good. Much like Duncan Jones’ Moon, Apollo 18 relies on basic special effects, clever lighting and excellent use of camera trickery, helped out here by the found footage design, to really create an unsettling, cold and sinister atmosphere. Tensions mount between the two astronauts as a constant distortion on their Com’s units reveal creepy, ghostly and horrific sounds, their American flag goes missing from outside their shuttle, banging can be heard on the outer shell of the shuttle, a rock specimen somehow ends up on the floor of the shuttle, out of its bag. All these unexplained events build an incredible sense of fear and paranoia, and twenty minutes in you will be almost suffocating under the pure dread that is building. Thankfully, as the film is rather short, nothing is wasted here either, the films fast pace means that there is little time to get bored, and any moments of nothing happening either give you the chance to settle into the next level of the film, or put your nerves on edge ready for the next big scare.
As the film moves forward you suddenly get the idea that all is not right on the Moon, their are Government conspiracies at work, and you will get the sense that things are only going to get worse, much worse. To reveal much more about what happens would be silly, the less you know about this film the better. What I will say though is that this is one of the finest explorations into real fear you will see in a long time. If you buy into the idea, there is much to enjoy about Apollo 18, and it always helps when the central characters are as strong as these guys, it makes what happens all the more disturbing and upsetting. The scares do not come often, but when they do come they really work as they catch you off guard, There is no music, so everything is built upon the creepy sound effects of the constant buzzing of intercoms, odd muffled voices, things brushing against microphones or the always present horrific noises of interference passing through the intercoms. A simple thud from a guys foot landing on the ground is enough to make you jump, such is the atmosphere that has been so expertly built up. I myself jumped more times in this than in any other film this year, simply because I wasn’t expecting it.
Apollo 18 is a terrific chiller, and a fine addition to the sci-fi horror genre which can stand proud alongside the best of them. This film WILL get you wondering just what the bloody Hell is happening up there on the Moon, and a clever piece of writing at the end of the film is purely intended to get you a little worried, so go with it and enjoy a filmmaker really pushing the boat out to scare you. It is hard not to like the main characters, so you will find it very easy to get involved with the film, and the found footage design really REALLY works to the films advantage. A final ten minute rollercoaster of immense tension and incredible scares will leave you, quite literally, holding on for dear life. When this film finished at the cinema, the whole audience did not utter a word, or leave their seats until the credits were well and truly underway and that, in my opinion, is the sign of a film doing its job, and doing it well. Apollo 18 is a must-see, a terrific journey into pure, basic, stripped down terror that will leave a lasting impression, just please remember to breathe again once it is all over.