1/4/12

Apollo 18, or: Something Something, Jesus What A Boring Movie

So some of you may have noticed a distinct absence on my part in the past few months, and for that I apologize. I’ve been quite busy with the three G’s: grad school, girlfriend…and…Grimlock action figures…yes.

Anyway, after watching the film I’m about to write about the other night, my good friend Greg strongly suggested I write something about it on here. I’ve been itching to write again in a non-academic setting, so I figured, “Fuck it. Write away, Lore.” And here we are…with me writing away…

I first heard of Apollo 18 a few months back when it’s theatrical release date was pushed back even further and people were rather upset about it. It was apparently something that had been long awaited by the online horror blogging community. Who knew. Watching the trailer, I have to admit I was a little stoked about it. The idea was cool enough; a horror/sci fi take on why, after several manned missions to the moon, we decided fuck it, no more going back there. But I was weary of it being a ‘found footage’ style film, which is in my opinion is the late 2000s version of that fast bullshit shaky effect that was pioneered and perfected in Jacob’s Ladder. Still, the idea was intriguing enough to keep the desire to see this film in the back of my mind. After receiving a Target gift card from my aunt for Christmas, I decided what better time than now to check this film out.

The plot is this (SPOILER ALERT): apparently after the “last” Apollo mission, (Apollo 17) NASA decides it’s a good idea to send up another mission (which is conveniently classified for DoD purposes, thus keeping all the historically minded viewers from saying, ‘’hey, that mission never happened!’) to set up an early defense warning system against the Russians. Because, you know, somehow a warning system ON THE MOON would warn us that the Russian were attacking us.

They discover that the Russians have already landed there, and are dead. Some creepy tracks show up, there’s some spooky noises, an American flag goes missing, blah blah blah. Turns out the reasons the Americans were sent up was to set up devices not to monitor the Russians but instead to monitor signs of aliens. Some more unfortunately predictable stuff happens, there’s yelling, talk of ‘them’, and then there’s an ending that I think is supposed to freak us out but again is just kind of predictable.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There were parts of this film that were genuinely eerie. The scene where alien tracks are found outside the lunar lander is really fucking creepy. The part at the end where one astronaut is fleeing a swarm of creepy weirdo aliens also made me uncomfortable in the best way. In fact, the entire idea of this film is unsettling. And the horrors of this movie aren’t merely of the fantastic and monstrous. Towards the end, we are treated to a glimpse of the cold and utilitarian nature of the scientific community when an astronaut is treated to hearing about the decision by the Secretary of Defense to fucking leave him on the moon to die and lie to his family by saying he blew up in space. That is some heartless shit. Unfortunately, a good horror film on paper does not a good horror film in reality make.

What Apollo 18 suffers from is a great concept executed in a piss poor manner. Like a lot of ‘found footage’ films, instead of appearing raw and uncut like such footage would actually appear, it just looks like a movie shot in a deliberately poor manner, but with just enough professional glitz and gleam to ruin the illusion of spontaneous footage that is discovered. In fact, there were times when I wondered to myself, ‘both characters are in frame…who is shooting from a handheld camera?’

In a similar vein, what was kind of the deal breaker of this film for me, there are scenes where one character is looking directly into the camera and starts doing the Jacob’s Ladder headshake. No joke. In a real time, non-hallucination setting, that happens in this movie. It’s like the filmmakers weren’t content with using the rough documentary style and had to dabble in bullshit that nearly ruined horror films a few years back. Likewise, there’s a scene where a character is taking pictures using a flash camera in a totally dark crater, showing flashes of the landscape before showing a mummified cosmonaut. Such a technique would be awesome in a regularly shot film. But in this style it just came off as too convenient and unrealistic.

What starts out as an interesting idea just dissolves into a confusing, boring, and lackluster film that is muddled, trite, and at almost an hour and a half way too long. By the forty five minute mark, I was checking Twitter, checking Facebook, kinda falling asleep. You get the idea. It’s like the filmmakers had maybe a half hour of great footage and tried to dilute it and stretch into an hour and half. What was a great idea becomes hackneyed and tedious, and instead of being scared consistently we are scared sometimes and bored for the most part. There were too many unanswered questions (what took down the American flag? Why was the Apollo lander shaking? What made the horrendously creepy tracks?), and honestly the reason we never went back was a bit of a let down. Basically, there are moon rocks that turn into space spiders and “infect” us and kill us and whatnot. Seriously. Fucking spiders in space. That make you crazy. Hey filmmakers, um, Chris Carter and the rest of the “X-Files” crew want the season 1 “Ice” back.

I wouldn’t recommend this movie. I mean, I didn’t even spend my own money on it and I’m sort of pissed I bought it. I won’t make the comparison to Paranormal Activity that I’ve heard, because aside from the attempt at being a found footage style film this has nothing to do with Paranormal Activity. It’s just a really boring, really unfocused, really poorly executed horror movie.

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