Apollo 18 (Gonzalo López-Gallego, 2011)
I had somehow missed, or forgotten, that Apollo 18 is yet another shakycam-found-footage “mockumentary”, but even after realizing that, I kept watching anyway. I don’t hate those movies perhaps as much as I should, especially given that I am prone to motion sickness. And for most of its length, Apollo 18 is a run-of-the-mill found-footage horror film, nothing special, nothing great. Then you get to the end of the movie, and if you have any shred of suspended disbelief left, you will start throwing things at the screen and demanding your money back. Even if it’s your TV screen and you pay eight bucks a month for Netflix and you watch enough movies that you actually paid all of about three cents to watch this.
Plot: There were officially seventeen Apollo missions. Supposedly, Apollo 18 posits, there was in fact an eighteenth Apollo mission in 1974. (Never mind that shakycams in 1974 would have been a bit larger than shakycams today.) Ben Anderson (This Means War‘s Warren Christie), Nate Walker (Miss Potter‘s Lloyd Owen), and John Grey (Passengers‘ Ryan Robbins) were the personnel; Grey staying in orbit around the moon, while Anderson and Walker touched down ostensibly to deliver some sort of listening equipment. When they get to the surface, however, they discover that it’s possible what they were told they were sent to do and what they were actually sent to do are two very different things…
All well and good, and it is certainly the case that any number of found-footage movies, including The Blair Witch Project, have devised mind-stretching “how this footage got out to the public” backstories for the footage finally making it to the public, Brian Miller, the guy behind Apollo 18, didn’t even try; if you don’t get to the end of this movie and ask yourself where that particular piece of the puzzle disappeared to, you’re way better at suspending disbelief than I am. For that matter, things get silly about half an hour before that, but this is a horror movie, you have to expect that sort of thing. And until then, if you can shunt aside the fact that this is for the most part the plot of an old X-Files episode (telling you which would give the game away, and to be fair to the movie I didn’t realize this until a couple of days after I’d finished the movie), it’s decently-acted if not great, it draws on the time period it’s set in as part of constructing the mystery at the heart of the film, and the creepies are effective and not overused—a rarity in this sort of film. I wish I could tell you “it’s Frost/Nixon meets The Blair Witch Project!” and, had this gone through another rewrite or two with an eye towards believability and continuity, it might have been. Unfortunately, it’s not, so you’re stuck with the skeleton of what might have been and a not-too-terrible first act. **