MOVIE REVIEW: Apollo 18 movie reviewer Paul Daza says the low-budget flick will not likely spawn blockbuster sequels.


( Joining the ranks of such low-budget "found footage" fright flicks as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity is Apollo 18, a paranoid sci-fi horror movie which claims that there was an 18th lunar mission that the US Department of Defense covered up because of national security issues. That, plus the "fact" that extra-terrestrials killed the astronauts involved in the covert mission. Despite its intriguing and promising premise, however, Apollo 18 only serves up a few precious scares in its 86 minutes. The movie also makes it hard for viewers to suspend their disbelief when it jettisons some very basic scientific laws for the sake of creating terror and suspense. For these reasons, it's unlikely that Apollo 18 will be a sequel (or prequel) spawning blockbuster like the earth-bound horror flicks that inspired it.



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It's December 1974, and astronauts Ben Anderson (Warren Christie) and Nate Walker (Lloyd Owen) are sent to the moon by NASA on a super secret expedition. On the lunar surface, they find not the Transformer Sentinel Prime in a deep sleep, but rather, an abandoned Russian spacecraft. The discovery contradicts the Soviet Union's claim that they never sent a man to the moon.  Soon after seeing the Soviet spacecraft, Ben and Nate find the decaying corpse of its captain, whose body bears evidence of having been killed by an unknown organism. It isn't long before Nate himself is attacked by one of  the moon-dwelling creatures, which implants what looks like a stone in his body faster than you can say "Ridley Scott's Alien." The two men are soon in a desperate fight for their lives to return to Earth, with no help forthcoming from mission control.


As a low-budget effort, there's one thing about Apollo 18 that's praiseworthy: its look. To aid the illusion that the film was shot in 1974, the filmmakers appear to have used actual 16mm cameras for the scenes where the astronauts are documenting the mission for themselves. Footage from real NASA moon missions has also been incorporated in the film, and the combination of the film and video footage goes a long way towards giving Apollo 18 a visual verisimilitude that captures the look of the NASA news footage from the 60s and 70s. Also enhancing the authenticity of the "found footage" is the fact that it's projected in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio of TV and home movies of the era. High marks should also be given to the production designer for finding locations that were quite convincing as the moon, and for providing props and costumes for the astronauts which looked authentic enough to my untrained eyes.


The film, however, loses lots of points for lapses in scientific accuracy. Why, for instance, does gravity appear to be normal (earth-like) in the spacecraft that Ben and Nate spend most of their time in while on the moon? Wouldn't both men move slightly slower than normal inside the ship -as they do on the lunar surface -because gravity on the moon is one-sixth that of the Earth's? And considering that our moon is an airless vacuum, wouldn't it have been impossible for the creature to make the noise that alerts the astronauts to its presence?  There's also the question of who found the footage that comprises the 80+ hours of footage that became the film, considering what happens to  Ben and Nate at the conclusion of their space odyssey. And where exactly, pray tell, was  the footage found?

If you're the sort of moviegoer who can live with such lapses, there are a few  jolts to be had in Apollo 18. I counted five good scares in the film's 86 minutes, which would mean a boo! moment every 21 minutes or so. None of them are brilliant, though, being mere variations of scare tactics involving sudden reveals and loud noises on the sound track we've all seen and heard before. The only thing novel about the scares is that they take place on the moon. These include the blink-and-you'll-miss-it first glimpse of the creature, and a cool, strobing flashbulb scene in a lunar cave.


Of the two heroic astronauts who are victimized by the moon monster, the best thing I can say about the actors who played them is that they never became annoying in the way that the couple in Paranormal Activity did at one point in that film.

I'm actually tempted to call Apollo 18 "Paranormal Lunar Activity," but doing so would be a disservice to Paranormal Activity, which was way scarier and far more entertaining than this farfetched film. With only five scares to boast of for a P170 movie ticket, that computes to a costly P34 per scare. That's as good an argument as any that Apollo 18's  hidden footage should have been kept hidden.

RATING: 1½  spots out of 5 ..


Click here to see the Apollo 18 movie schedule

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