Director: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Writers: Brian Miller, Cory Goodman
Cast: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins
SYNOPSIS: Decades-old footage from a classified Apollo 18 mission landing to the moon by two American astronauts shed light on why the United States really scrubbed its Apollo program.
REVIEW: Director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego takes a script from Brian Miller and Priest writer Cory Goodman to bring to life the reason why the United States abandoned the Apollo space program. This Summer's blockbuster would lead you to believe that the reason why the US never returned to the moon is because a sinister web of corporations made it impractical to return, hoping to bury the secret of sentient robotic machines crash landed on the dark side of the moon. But now we have long-forgotten documented footage edited together from over 80 hours of film taken from http://www.lunartruth.com/ that sheds light on the truth of why the country that planted its Stars and Bars on the craggy surface of the earth's only satellite never returned.
Following the lives of LEM commander Nate (Lloyd Owen), LEM astronaut Ben (Warren Christie) and Freedom orbiter commander John (Ryan Robbins) as they are contacted by the Department of Defense in 1973 and told their scrubbed mission to the moon is a go, but now top secret classified from everyone, including their families. Tasked by the DOD to land on the moon and set up listening radar devices as early warning arrays against aggression by the Soviets, Nate and Ben touch down on their assigned landing coordinates and proceed to undertake their tasks. But once on the moon, both Nate and Ben experience strange happenings, as well as come across an abandoned Soviet lander near one of radar sites. Trying to contact John in the orbiter and get confirmation from NASA in Houston or the Department of Defense becomes increasingly difficult and the data they are getting becomes increasingly suspicious.
The documentary style of filming has again become popularized in movies. From Paranormal Activity to Battle: Los Angeles, the sometimes shaky hand-held look works when used to its greatest extent. In fact, The Blair Witch Project managed to tell a great story and scare the crap out of most audiences when it rolled into theaters. The idea of "lost" footage in the case of Apollo 18 is obvious just a story device, no one believing that any of the footage is real. Where Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project relied on viral, grass roots electronic buzz to add to their fear factors, Apollo 18 is a straight ahead use of the filming style to try and tell a story that will entertain and scare.
Using stationary mounted cameras inside the moon lander and orbiter, 'pan and zoom' cameras on tripods outside the LEM, cameras attached to the astronauts space suits and hand-held camera that the astronauts use to document, Apollo 18 doesn't rely on the audience having to strain and wait to get the bumps in the night while minutes of static film burn away. With quicker edits and multiple cameras available, a faster paced sense of tension is achieved. Switching between the crystal clear images of the astronauts' Westinghouse cameras and the more grainy, lower resolution stationary cameras keeps the imagery fresh and well-paced.
Apollo 18 is not the best mockumentary horror film ever made, nor is it the worst. A few key moments made me jump out of my seat. One involved a strobe light used as a flashlight and the other involved one of the astronauts himself. The characters are realistic everymen just wanting to be patriots and a part of American history, protecting their homes from the real or imagined threats from foreign lands. The threat that faces Nate and Ben on the moon is as original as it is plausible. Even with the landings that the NASA program have documented, there is much that scientists and rocket jockeys have barely uncovered. And the lunar lander is as claustrophobic and dangerous as it is the only protection from the harsher landscape of the moon outside its confines - Lifeboat or the more scifi driven Lifepod come to mind.
The pace of the film is a little uneven, but the tension is palatable and unnerving. And the last 20 minutes make up for any complaints before it. When you are in space and no one can hear you scream, what else can one astronaut do?
WORTH: Matinee or DVD
WORTH: Matinee or DVD