The other night when we watched Insidious there was a trailer before it for Apollo 18 that had the release date as April 2011. Then before that I’m pretty sure it was scheduled for January at one point, and I think it even had a date locked for late 2010. When you don’t have the confidence to release your super low budget horror movie in January or April, things are not looking good.
You know in retrospect I’m not even sure what led to me going to see Apollo 18 in an actual theatre. It doesn’t seem like me to decide that I should spend part of my day off work at a somewhat nearby theatre watching a movie I know in advance is going to be mediocre at best. But the universe aligned and for reasons I can’t explain, I found myself watching this movie this afternoon.
I guess it worked out as best it could because yes indeed, this movie was mediocre. Thoroughly mediocre.
I have to believe we must be teetering dangerously close to the edge when it comes to found footage movies. We had a good run a few years back with REC, Cloverfield, and of course all the way back with Blair Witch Project. With each new entry in this sub-genre people seem to be growing a greater sense of fatigue. At this point I’m pretty sure they are running out of events to find footage of. And what do you do when you’re out of ideas? Send that shit to space.
Apollo 18 tells the tale of three (although we really only stick with two of them) astronauts who are part of a classified mission to the moon because of reasons I won’t go into here but rest assured they turn out to be pretty dopey. As much as I’d love to kick things off with a cliché like “Ooooo it doesn’t take long before things start to get creepy”, it actually kind of does. In reality it’s probably only about 20 minutes but it really does feel like forever. When a movie that barely clocks in at 80 minutes feels like it’s dragging you are definitely in trouble.
Thankfully things do pick up and for the next chunk, Apollo 18 manages to drum up some solid atmosphere and a couple of good scares. For the most part though you’ll be watching the characters hear eerie sound effects which the movie thinks is the most frightening idea ever conceived because they fall back on it time and time again. The first time you hear the noises it’s a little eerie but by the third or fourth time I’m surprised even the characters weren’t starting to get a little bored by it.
For every mildly creepy moment (almost all of which are in the trailer so feel free to check that out and save yourself some time) there is a solid 10 minutes of virtually nothing. The first reveal of the actual threat is …. let’s say interesting. It could definitely have been executed a whole lot stupider when you actually look at the situation, but at least I could have had more fun with it were it to have been just fucking ridiculous. Instead it’s a little disappointing because they could have done just about anything with the idea of “shit’s real bad on the moon” and the route they chose to go is not ideal. I know the budget for this movie was small, but they still could have come up with something better here. And I’m not going to tell you what the threat is either, because I feel you have to earn it so you’ll have to sit through the entire movie just like I did. Or just go to a different web site, I’m sure they’ll be happy to tell you there.
I think the next step for the found footage movie is to make a found footage movie about the people who actually found the footage. It would be about their quest to take 100 hours of footage and cut it down to a lean 90 minutes. Do they have discussions around what would make good jump scares? There’s definitely moments in this movie that serve no purpose other than a cheap jump scare so that was a deliberate move by the people cutting the footage, which is kind of an asshole move I think. If I were the family of these fictional astronauts, I would not be impressed with this cheapening of their memory.
Also nothing breaks the illusion of a found footage movie more than at the end telling us the website where we can go to learn more about this totally true conspiracy, only to then immediately start listing the people who made your fictional movie.
Apollo 18 is not offensively bad but I can’t in any good conscious recommend that you watch it, even when it hits DVD. There are a couple of effective scenes and moments but it only adds up to about 2 minutes worth of the running time. The rest is spent watching characters we aren’t that interested in say words that we definitely are not interested in. And now that we’ve done a found footage movie in space, where the hell do we go next? My vote is for an adaptation of that Magic School Bus book where they shrunk themselves down and went inside the human body. Someone finds 90 hours of footage of that shit and we get to watch the best 75 minutes of it. Hollywood, I will do this movie for free. All you need to do is ask me.