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Apollo 18 (2011)
Rated PG13

Starring: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, and Ryan Robbins

Rating:
**
out of
*****

Apollo 18 is yet another entry in the increasingly crowded sub-genre of film known as "found footage." These are movies that ask the viewer to understand that what they're seeing was filmed by the protagonists themselves. Most of these movies also ask the viewer to accept that the fate of those involved in the filming of said footage is unknown. And, of course, someone had to find it. (Hence the name of the genre.)

This time, the footage is from a secret mission to the moon which took place a full two years after the last "official" moon landing. The crew of Apollo 18 is carrying out what amounts to a black op for the Department of Defense. They're supposed to be installing devices which can detect missile launches on Earth. (A moon-based system seems terribly impractical being that Earth-bound systems for this purpose had been around since the 1950s but I digress.) However, their communications are constantly interrupted by interference and what sounds like shrieking. Once the installation of the devices is completed, the astronauts make a disturbing discovery: They're not alone on the moon.

Apollo 18 has a fascinating concept. Imagine being trapped on the moon with something from which you cannot escape. It's a scenario that one would think would immediately trigger instinctual fears and behaviors in someone who faces such a dilemma. Unfortunately, the actors portraying the moonbound astronauts (Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen) don't seem to be all that worried about their situation until the last reel of the film. Slightly concerned, maybe, but certainly not terrified. It is their lack of emotion that keeps Apollo 18 from being anywhere near as scary as it should have been.

The found footage genre asks the audience members to buy into the concept that we're watching events unfold as they occur. In the case of Apollo 18, we're also asked to believe that the film was edited together from 80+ hours of footage that was uploaded to a website in 2011. Yet, the film cheats the audience and the premise by being edited in such a way that goes for cheap jump scares. Would someone who edited found footage of a top secret moon mission really try to scare the viewer or would they try to inform? The edits don't fit the story and ultimately Apollo 18 disappoints.

Director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego may have failed to make an engaging horror film but he did manage to effectively recreate a moon landing. Using digital effects and claustrophobic sets, the moon and lunar module scenes are technically brilliant. I only wish they had been used to enhance a better script.

Trivia: Actor Ryan Robbins also plays the role of Henry Foss on the television show, Sanctuary. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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