APOLLO 18 Review: Another Dull "Found Footage" Film

It goes to such painstaking lengths for stylistic plausibility that the end product is actually quite dull, squandering its novel 'Paranormal Activity in space' concept as a result.

rating: 2

It€™s never a good sign when a studio refuses to screen a film to the press, but it€™s a terrible sign when that same studio also delays the film's release by six months for unknown reasons. Moved from the already undemanding Spring line-up to that awkward month in-between the Summer tentpoles and Oscar hopefuls, Apollo 18 is all out of excuses now, though given this rickety end product, it is in need of all the help it can get. Another entry into the much overdone €œfound footage€ subgenre, Apollo 18 depicts the supposedly real events which took place during NASA€™s titular mission, one which was actually cancelled for real, and no expeditions to the Moon have taken place since. The film suggests that we have never been back precisely because of what the Apollo 18 astronauts discovered, and the resulting events have been covered up, only for an edited version to be leaked online in 2011, and herein lies that footage. What good can be said of Apollo 18 is that it sheds much of the stylistic formula and bad habits of similar genre outings to date €“ implausible camera coverage and characters taking undue risks to capture the monsters €“ but at the same time, in attempting to remain true to the technical limitations of its time period, and the constraints of capturing footage on the moon, it is a frequently irritating, constantly frustrating experience, full of tiresomely grainy dialogues and VHS-style artefacting, hardly making this the most flattering outing to the cinema. Footage typically cuts between handheld cameras given to the crew, as well as ones mounted in the ship, outside the ship, and on the crew€™s helmets, though director Gonzalo López-Gallego is too eager to cut disorientatingly between these sources, resulting in a sloppy and sometimes spatially confusing experience which undercuts any attempt at tension that he tries to realise. It€™s a shame because for a relatively low-budget outing the Moon has been impressively recreated, even if the self-imposed technological limitations do make this somewhat easier. Too much of the film €“ which scarcely crosses the 80-minute mark €“ deals with the ennui of a complex space mission, though not with any psychological depth or intelligence, but with a joyless, dull recreation of that tiresome repetition. Things don€™t begin to get even a touch spooky until well past the half-way point, by which time the outcome is relatively obvious to predict, while the grainy and incessantly, intentionally poor coverage of the creatures makes it difficult to become involved in what is going on. Rule one of a monster movie is that you at some point have to play fair, but Apollo 18 rarely provides a lingering glimpse of the extraterrestrial inhabitants living on the Moon, and even when it does, they are achingly unimaginative ones. Things pick up ever so slightly during the final straight, as an interesting if predictable moral dilemma arises, but again the film foils its own suspense by transferring the situation into an ultimately black-and-white decision free of ambiguity or tension, before it reaches an inevitable cut-off point and abruptly concludes. It€™s easy to admire how well the lunar landscape has been recreated here, but it does little to disguise a derivative narrative which has confused ideas about what audiences want out of this tricky subgenre. It goes to such painstaking lengths for stylistic plausibility that the end product is actually quite dull, squandering its novel 'Paranormal Activity in space' concept as a result. Apollo 18 is out now in cinema's.

Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at] gmail.com.