Review: ‘Apollo 18’

"You won’t believe that a found footage movie can be just as exciting as a sci-fi classic."

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Every great horror movement eventually has to make it into space. Hellraiser went there, Jason went there, even Leprechaun went there. Now the found footage genre goes into space. Thank God too. Apollo 18 is Paranormal Activity in space, so you get all the horror of Alien – but real, meaning presented as if it really happened.

The premise here is that there actually was an 18th Apollo mission despite what we were told in 1970. Some webmasters ( uncovered the video captured by the astronauts and the shuttle cameras and edited this film together. Creating real sci-fi suspense with these confines is breathtaking, and the danger is more terrifying because our astronauts don’t have lasers and lift suits to work with.

Like a dry historical documentary, the footage gives a brief introduction of the astronauts and touches on their family. The first part of their mission is basic space procedure and character building. They play around on the moon and justify the footage with the comment “You know this is going to the DoD.” They also tell dick stories and one astronaut hears a touching recording from his family. So you’ll feel really bad that he’s not a famous astronaut who’s known for returning home safely, mission accomplished.

Once things start happening, a lot happens. It may be something simple like a rock moving or finding footprints, but that’s a big deal when you’re the only three astronauts on the moon. Walking on the moon is still realistically slow, so they play with the same tensions as 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is a lot of indecipherable screaming. That adds more mystery. You’re not quite sure what they’re screaming about.

Way more happens in Apollo 18 than Paranormal Activity. We’re not just watching people stand over beds. They position the cameras well to show the juicy parts. The film shows the creatures. They can be fleeting or disoriented images, but there’s no tease here. It ends with a big finish, a far more dramatic conclusion than any other found footage movie.

Most of the film is in the 4:3 16mm aspect ratio. When it goes wider, it’s the blurry NASA cam. Of course it’s still full surround sound. Nice of them to do a high tech sound mix on their “found footage.” When they explore the dark side there are only sporadic flashes of light from the astronaut’s flashlights. That’s obviously a horror technique but effectively believable since they probably didn’t have batteries to power space flashlights.

This film will shock you to your core. You won’t believe that a found footage movie can be just as exciting as a sci-fi classic. The last ten minutes are the most exciting of any summer movie, and without motion capture effects.