Apollo 18 was one of those films that a) I wanted to see at the cinema, b) was sorry I missed at the cinema, and c) was rather relieved I didn’t see at the cinema when I heard what others thought about it. Nevertheless, intrepid as I am, I saw the blu ray this week, after which I could appreciate fully why no press screenings of Apollo 18 had been offered. It’s such a shame, actually. I love scifi movies and not enough films are set on the moon for my liking. The idea of a secret Apollo mission to the moon is such a good one. Unfortunately, it should never have gone further than the launchpad.
Apollo 18 – which does not star Tom Hanks or Kevin Bacon – is one of those found footage movies. The instant trouble with that is that it makes comparison with this year’s excellent Troll Hunter inevitable and that is not a good thing. Comparison with Apollo 13 doesn’t do it too many favours either. In this film we see the recordings made by a team of three who visit the moon (one staying in orbit while the other two land) in 1974 to set transmitters to interfere with Russian satellites.
Because Apollo 18 is billed as a horror, it’s impossible not to look for those creepy moments from the outset – whenever there is interference on the camera or the astronauts enter a particularly dark and cold crater of the moon’s surface where there might or might not lie the body of a dead cosmonaut. Unfortunately, after an awful lot of time building up a crescendo of averted and deflected horrors, the true terror finally hits and… well, it’s just not that frightening. This is the trouble when alien monsters turn out to be rocks. Even when the rocks grow legs and wriggle about.
Once the true horror of the rock infestation is established, the astronauts learn that they are on their own – contaminated. Their efforts to save themselves take on some of the drama of a story that has a little shape to it but, for me, the film failed from the moment in which I saw a rock wobble on legs. Space is infinite in its possibilities. This film lets it down.
The cast is anonymous and interchangeable. There isn’t half the drama of the scene in Apollo 13 when they have to make a square thing fit into a round hole, using nothing more than a sock. On the up side, it’s short. On the down side, it ends with an absurd rendition of We Three Kings.
I want more scifi movies, and I want them filled with wonder and awe and, if necessary, horror. More films like Apollo 18 are less necessary.