The Blair Witch Project meets Apollo 13 and throws in a helping of Alien in Apollo 18, a sci-fi horror that sort of pretends to be a conspiracy thriller but, like the very small cast assembled for this sloth-paced thriller, isn’t good enough at acting to pull it off.
Implementing the found footage gimmick, a trick that should’ve been buried a while ago (darn you and your box office riches, Paranormal Activity), we’re told at the onset of Apollo 18 that everything we’re about to see comes from countless hours of NASA footage discovered online, documenting a final (and ill-fated) secret manned mission to the moon in 1974, two years after Apollo 17. Uh-huh. And I’m Neil Armstrong. (Although, admittedly, I often fibbed as a kid that he was my uncle. Aaaah, youth.)
In reality, the crew (Warren Christie, Lloyd Own and Ryan Robbins) play this thing out on a Vancouver soundstage. And give Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego — in his English-language feature debut — this much credit; the grainy images, so familiar from the earlier Apollo missions that were beamed back to North American living rooms, are very genuine looking. His picture does indeed have a nostalgiac ’70s feel to it. What it doesn’t have, unfortunately, is an ounce of suspense.
It’s probably because this sort of exercise is so tired, but Apollo 18 (by the way, am I giving away too much in suggesting that the astronauts aren’t alone on the moon?) is one awfully slow film. And even as the payoff does come, when those moon rocks sprout legs and scuttle across the… whups, giving away too much now, aren’t I? It’s nothing special. And it sure isn’t all that.
Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give Apollo 18 a two. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.
Jason Armstrong is a reviewer living in the Okanagan.