“Fate has ordained…the men who went to the moon to explore in peace, remain on the moon to rest in peace.”
Officially, Apollo 17 launched December 17th, 1972 was the last manned mission to the moon. But a year later, in December of 1973, two American astronauts were sent on a secret mission to the moon funded by the US Department of Defense. What you are about to see is the actual footage which the astronauts captured on that mission. While NASA denies its authenticity, others say it’s the real reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.
Back when Apollo 18 was released in theaters, I had this odd feeling that I probably could get away with not seeing it on the big screen. And when my gut feeling was validated by the reports of how much of a bore-fest this movie was, not only by online reviews but also by friends who went to see it, I figured I would maybe watch it some time, when it was out on DVD…and probably years down the line, after I’ve forgotten of its existence and then stumble upon the title once again later, mindlessly perusing titles out of shear boredom. Which is exactly what happened in this case. I came across it, remembered what everyone said of it, and decided to finally check it out to see exactly how bad it could be.
Apollo 18’s story consists of three American astronauts being sent to the moon in the early 1970s on a classified mission to set up recording and broadcasting equipment. Two of them make the landing, and set about their mission for two days of exploring the moon terrain. Soon, they stumble upon a deserted Russian lunar lander, with evidence of a violent struggle inside. Then they come across the dessicated corpse of one of the Cosmonauts, because in Soviet Russia, space walk you! Ahem, sorry. That was uncalled for, my apologies. Back at…um, moon camp, the two astronauts are experiencing technical difficulties, finding their equipment damaged mysteriously, and hearing odd shrieking noises over the comm systems. Then, one of the moon rock samples they picked up sprouts legs and infects one of the astronauts with…something or other. Probably eggs. Imagine that, moon spiders spawning under your skin as you sleep. So then, like clockwork, the infected astronaut goes nuts, they have to abandon moon camp, the non-infected guy manages to escape in the Russian capsule, only to discover moon spiders have hitched a ride with and infect him, resulting in loosing control of the capsule and crashing into the orbiting command module. We end on official government reports of how the astronauts “really died”.
Pretty much the entire time I was watching Apollo 18, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was actually watching an elongated episode of The Outer Limits. The 1990s revival series, not the original 1960s version. And if you look at it this way, yeah, Apollo 18 works as a decent enough Science Fiction B-Movie. As a mater of fact, it’s only 80 minutes long, if you don’t count the credits crawl at the end. And since this didn’t have your now-standard post-credits “twist” stinger scene, I’m not.
As a Found Footage style movie, the decision to go with Super 8 film mostly was a good idea, as at least you got the feeling that you were watching old home movie shot footage. On the other hand, though, whoever thought that dumbing the footage down—i.e., replaying footage and slowing things down, zooming in and highlighting the area of weirdness as if to say LOOK OVER HERE! WEIRD THINGS GOIN’ ON! OOOOOOOO! We know what kind of movie this is. We’re on the lookout, we don’t need help. Or, maybe the filmmakers knew that they barely had anything in the way to keep the audience invested in watching, and this was their way of insuring that they wouldn’t just try finding better made “found footage” scares on their smart phones. Because the only thing scary about this movie is that, despite almost everyone not liking it upon release, it technically is considered a Box Office success. Over-hyped low budget movies tend to be so.
Overall, we have a movie that’s devoid of genuine scares, has a bit of creepiness, relies on maybe a handful of flaccid jump scares and a premise pulled straight out of a Weird Tales To Astonish pulp magazine, all the while managing to have a decent enough pace to be able to sit through without fidgeting too much. At least they kept the moon spiders to the shadows for the most part, working a decent fear-of-the-unknown vibe, but that wasn’t enough to make this anything more than something that could have worked better as an episode of the afore-mentioned Science Fiction anthology television program. I don’t regret having spent time watching this movie, but again I don’t see myself watching it again of my own volition, either.