(Read this in my publication In Retrospect – Issue 2)
Apollo 18 is a science fiction horror directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego, documenting NASA’s final expedition to the moon. When two astronauts, Benjamin Anderson (Warren Christie) and Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen), never return from their secret mission, the media release their footage, revealing the terrifying reasons to why this the US has never returned.
Shot in a mockumentary found-footage style set in 1974, Anderson and Walker are told that their previously cancelled Apollo 18 mission is set to go and that their job is to place detectors to alert the US of any missile attacks.
We don’t see much of the beforehand preparation and are only introduced to one other character, John Grey (Ryan Robbins), who remains in orbit aboard Freedom while Walker and Anderson land on the moon in the module Liberty. From now, the story unfolds around these two astronauts as they begin collecting rock samples. But when the two start hearing weird noises at night and their cameras capture some of the rocks outside moving, they begin to question the existence of extraterrestrial life. Not to mention another astronauts footprints and a bloodstained Soviet lunar lander found nearby.
To say that the film is 75 minutes of two characters exploring the moon, it somehow never becomes boring. It does this through the constantly tense scenes; there’s never any time to think that nothing interesting is happening as your eyes are swiftly moving around the screen trying to spot any sudden movement in the corner and your hands are clenching something tightly as you expect something to happen at any minute. This intensity is heightened as, unlike many other horror films, there’s no daytime to be safe and there’s no way of escaping.
The astronauts are forced to live in constant darkness and when the small amount of sunlight doesn’t reach the depths of the craters, they must cope with infrequent flashes from a camera to light up their surroundings. And that’s when the scariest parts of the film happen, with this strobe-like effect worsening the minute heart attack you feel like you’re having.
With unknown actors and a small crew, Apollo 18 places itself alongside other low-budget found-footage style films such as the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. However, whilst the tension of Apollo 18 is extremely successful, it doesn’t really scare like these other horror mockumentaries. Nor is there any surprise in the plot or anything to make you jump as you’re expecting something to happen pretty much every second.
Not everybody wants to go to the cinema to be sat there feeling tense for a few hours rather than be entertained. However, I would still recommend this to watch.