Twitter Plot Summary: Contrary to popular belief, Apollo 18 did actually go to the Moon, but they found something… evil.
Five Point Summary:
1. Apollo 18 on the Moon! Boom.
2. Something’s not quite right.
3. Those darned Russkies!
4. Something in his helmet…
5. Obligatory found footage ending.
The found footage genre expands to the limitless expanse of outer space in Apollo 18. The Apollo missions to the moon ended with Apollo 17, with planned missions for Apollo 18, 19 and 20 dropped due to budgetary cuts. The premise of Apollo 18 is that the mission did in fact take place, but its existence was hidden from the public for reasons that will become clear. Luckily for us, 84 hours of “classified footage” was released and this film was edited together from that. Before even getting into the film itself, this premise is rife with possibility and plays on our inherent fear of the unknown. In terms of human existence to date, there is no more lonely a place than the surface of the Moon, after all.
It begins in a similar fashion to the other Moon mission footage we have seen before. Presented entirely in a similar style to the footage of the era – narrow frame, noise and damage on the video itself – two astronauts land on the surface of the Moon whilst a third remains in lunar orbit. Whilst completing their routine scientific experiments, the crew notice a number of strange occurrences – lights flickering, radio interference and so on. So far, so obvious. Soon enough events take a turn for the strange as they make a number of discoveries in quick succession and the threat facing the crew slowly reveals itself. Once the threat becomes apparent, it quickly loses any semblance of realism and degrades into generic horror territory.
Trotting old standard horror jump scares, there is nothing original about this other than its moon-based setting. Whilst we’re supposed to believe that this all actually happened, it would be a bonus if the editing created more tension or even a sense of foreboding. Cheap jump scares do exactly as they are intended to do, but otherwise it’s completely devoid of genuine scares and lacks the ability to elicit genuine fear in the audience. Other than the occasional quick scares from the previously mentioned jump scare procedure, the main emotional reaction from the audience will most likely be boredom.
The performances from a group of relative unknowns add to the vague sense of believability, although they’re not given a huge amount to work with beyond reacting to their situation. They are all cardboard cutout characters that, whilst no doubt perhaps perfect representations of actual astronauts, they do not give us anybody to root for unlike those we encounter in something like Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. It is stymied quite substantially by the limited locations used, a lack of relatable characters, and most notably a lack of compelling story.
It seems that there is little else the found footage genre can do without jumping into full-on science fiction territory along similar lines to Cloverfield. Whilst Apollo 18 does try to construct an entertaining story, it could have perhaps done better by adding thriller elements to its story and expanding on the political conspiracy angle. Instead it deserves praise for its presentation and a couple of story elements, but not much more beyond this.