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Apollo 18

The Weinstein Company; 88 minutes

Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego

Written by on September 3, 2011 

When The Blair Witch Project came out just over a decade ago, the BBFC had declared me to be too naive and sensitive-minded to watch it in the cinema due to my age. At the time, I also knew that my parents would never rent it out for me when it came out on home video, but for good reason: only a few years prior, Michael Jackson‘s Moonwalker was known throughout my household as the film which would make me literally wet myself in terror. Only a child could understand how realistic and terrifying a notion it was that an evil Joe Pesci was living in horrible spider-cave at the bottom of your garden.

Knowing my elders would be worried that The Blair Witch Project would stimulate a resurgence in my fear of the great outdoors, but since I really wanted to experience the new “Scariest Movie Ever,” I figured out a way to see it without actually seeing it. I would read the transcribed screenplay of the movie, which was freely available online! Alas, this great plan turned sour once I devoured the thing and it was an unreadable mess, being the mostly-improvised found-footage film that it was. So banal and unfrightening was the reading experience that it effectively cured my fear of dark forests.

The now laughable “is it real?” hype train of The Blair Witch Project rendered the movie a huge hit and single-handedly birthed the “found footage” genre, of which Gonzalo López-Gallego’s Apollo 18 is the newest contender for the crown. The film posits the idea that the “cancelled” 1974 Apollo 18 mission actually did take place in secret, and that all trace of it was covered up by NASA. This remained the case until now, as some clever hackers have found footage from the ill-fated mission and made a documentary out of it.

Now, this would have been a pretty interesting idea for a movie, had it been a true story. Alas, we know it’s not a true story as the reason the mission was covered up is because the cosmonauts found tiny shapeshifting aliens on the moon. Amusingly, NASA has recently put out a press statement declaring that this film is not a documentary, thereby creating thousands of new conspiracy theorists who are now set to spend their lives unearthing the truth behind these PR lies.

The film fails both as horror and as entertainment. It’s not believable for a second, which is no doubt a fairly important conceit in a found-footage movie. It’s difficult to invest your energy and suspend disbelief in such a poorly-written, poorly-executed film. Furthermore, as a horror movie it fails to deliver. Any flaccid “scares” it does have tend to derive from tedious jump scenes rather than anything created with flair and skillful suspense, and the main cast of Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen are unbelievable in these roles.

It’s also insufficient as a fun brainless horror movie, since there’s no scope for potential comedy to be squeezed out of the proceedings, as the film takes itself so seriously throughout. It was certainly a mistake to make it a found-footage movie due to the narrative deficiencies which arise as a result, but had it been constructed using conventional means it would probably have been just as insubstantial. Suffice to say, if you suffer from an irrational fear of space aliens, this movie will effectively bore that fear out of you.


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