Review: ‘Apollo 18’ is an affront to reason and taste, a complete failure

It’s too late for me, but if you’re considering a weekend viewing of “Apollo 18,” might I suggest you head out to a theater showing “The Caller” instead?

I am flustered by how awful “Apollo 18” is.  And I am going to have a hard time fully describing it’s ineptitude if I can’t indulge a little bit in spoilers.  Since the film really only has one card to play, the mere mention of what that card is effectively gives away everything you’ll see, but that’s not the fault of the critic.  It’s a built-in issue with a meager idea that absolutely can’t support a full-length horror film, as well as a creative team that seems to have no idea what tension means.  “Apollo 18” is that special kind of awful where it’s not fun because it’s too boring, it’s not scary because it’s too stupid, and it’s not funny because it’s too sincere.  This is not so bad it’s great.  It’s so bad it’s just bad, and I pity anyone who gets rooked into a viewing this weekend.

When this was initially announced, Trevor Caewood was set as the director and Brian Miller was the writer.  Somewhere along the way, Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego was brought in as director, and there were several different attempts to fix what wasn’t working.  I can’t tell you what was done to the film, but I can tell you that it didn’t help.  This thing is terrible from start to finish.  For one thing, the device itself doesn’t work.  I don’t mind the idea of a found footage film, but you have to make it at least slightly credible in the set-up.  Something as heavily covered as the space race, especially in the ’60s and ’70s, needs to be handled in a very smart way if you’re going to play a game like this, and the set-up itself is so graceless and so blunt that the rest of the film never works as something you can even pretend to believe.  it doesn’t help that the footage itself doesn’t feel natural or organic.  We’ve all seen film shot during the various space missions, and it doesn’t look like this.  There’s no way to soft-pedal that as a criticism, either.  It just doesn’t work on a conceptual or visual level.

But let’s say it did. Let’s say I was able to buy into the idea of a secret space mission, something that didn’t make sense to me at the start.  After all, if this is the mission where something went wrong, why was it secret at the beginning?  That is eventually answered in the film, but I don’t buy the explanation, either.  Forget that, though, and let’s pretend they got the look of the film right.  I’d still have to buy into the notion of the actual threat in the film, and that’s just not possible.  Not at all.  Not on any level.

Moon rocks with legs.

There it is.  There’s the film’s big idea.  Moon rocks.  With legs.  And as silly as that sounds, you have no idea how silly it actually plays.  The filmmakers do everything they can to goose it and make the threat credible, but in the end, we’re dealing with moon rocks with legs.  There is a scene near the end of this film that is so ridiculous, so visually laugh-out-loud stupid, that I almost can’t believe I saw it in a real movie that is being released to theaters.

The best horror films are movies that play on our real fears, that speak to something universally understood or shared, and that create a situation we can imagine ourselves in.  The notion of being trapped on the moon could work if they really wanted to play on the notions of isolation and dependance on technology and the onset of madness in a closed space.  There are definitely fears that this film could have cranked up to have an effect, but instead, there is this cheap, false tension that all comes down to cheap jumps and moon rocks with legs.

Even typing that over and over, I feel like an idiot, and I’m just reviewing the movie.  I’m not anyone who had anything to do with the making of it.  I’m just trying to imagine how this happened, how anyone managed to pitch that and have other people think it was a good idea.  I can think of few things less frightening than a moon rock, and just adding legs to it so it vaguely resembles an iconic H.R. Giger creation is not enough to make it work.

Since there’s no cast listed for the film, I can’t single anyone out, but I just feel bad for the guys playing the astronauts.  They do their best to sell the fear, but they know how ridiculous this is.  The words fall out of their mouths like they taste bad, and towards the end, I would have had to chew a hole in my cheek to keep from laughing if I were in these scenes.  Maybe that means that these are “good performances,” since they did manage to make it through without cracking up, but I don’t know how you judge beyond that.  The material is such a complete failure that no one would have looked good in the film.

Even the expert hand of Patrick Lussier as editor can’t manufacture scares where there aren’t any to be found, and in the end, “Apollo 18” stands as one of the worst examples yet of a very, very limited subgenre.  It doesn’t matter if this footage was found or manufactured, because the only good thing that could be done with it involves a match and an accelerant.  “Apollo 18” is a good old fashioned robbery, and I’m warning you… don’t fall for it.  There’s nothing to see here.  Move along.

“Apollo 18” is being perpetrated on audiences starting today.

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