Apollo 18: What Could Have Been

 A smart premise does not take advantage of its potential in Apollo 18

I'm definitely late to the game on this one. Though the trailers looked mildly interesting and plot was intriguing, the negative reviews circulating the interwebs kept me from paying top dollar to see Apollo 18 on the big screen. Now that it's playing at the local $3 theater, I thought I'd give it a shot.

Hopes were high in the beginning, as we are introduced to our astronaut heroes through scratchy film footage. In a 4x3 presentation, we are delivered the basics: 3 men on a top-secret mission to the moon to retrieve rock samples. The aesthetics or so basic and the story presented so plainly, that it truly felt like an Errol Morris documentary for a while. In fact, a woman, who we can only presume is not of the highest intellect, turned to her husband and asked in between popcorn chews, "Is this a doc-u-men-tareeee?"

Things slowly become less subtle as time goes on. CGI, white noise effects, frenzied edits, and shutter speed effects necessarily dilute a look that I was otherwise digging. The cool color pallet, occasionally contrasted with desaturated yellows and reds, created a wonderful sense of isolation on the moon. Just as the aesthetics of the film are encroached by needless effects, so is the story convoluted with too many elements and not enough basic scares.

Government conspiracy, alien lifeforms, infections, mental instability, Russian cosmonauts, blah, blah, blah. Found footage films work because they are usually focused on a simple premise. The Paranormal Activity films have become less effective as they wander away from the core story. Blair Witch worked so well because it didn't explain everything. I would have liked to see Apollo 18 with one simple threat and less explanations. 


Ultimately, Apollo 18 is just a bunch of wasted potential. Throughout the film, there are some great uses of negative space and darkness, but nothing ever really pays off. It misses so many opportunities to elevate suspense. Instead, the film plays slowly, with in-your-face scares every 20 minutes or so. This couldn't even be called a slow burn, because that would suggest a steady progression. 

It may be worth a look if you're really into sci-fi horror or found footage films, but definitely don't go out of your way to see Apollo 18.