Movie Review: “Apollo 18”, 0.5% Special Effects, 100% Unnerving

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I’ll be honest, I was a bit reluctant about seeing Apollo 18 after I first saw the trailer. The story seemed interesting and it looked well-made, but I wasn’t too sure about the alien/horror part of it all. Even though the movie itself made me jump more than once, I found the concept quite compelling and the execution (as a mockumentary) – visually interesting. I also found it a breath of fresh air from all the typical alien movies with famous names, huge explosions and countless extras. Apollo 18 gets so claustrophobic at times that the confusion and desperation of the main characters almost seep through the screen. Directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego and written by Brian Miller, Apollo 18 is essentially a movie of two actors. Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen portray the two American astronauts of the Apollo 18 mission that officially was canceled, but supposedly took place in secret in 1974, according to the movie.

The crew of Apollo 18 are told that they will be sent to the moon on a secret mission for the Department of Defense. After landing, they start having minor problems with signal transmissions, as some interference appears to be happening. Soon after, the astronauts discover an empty Soviet lunar spacecraft, and demand answers from Houston. It appears that the Department of Defense knew about Soviets landing on the moon, yet the crew of Apollo 18 wasn’t informed about it. The astronauts also encounter disturbing signs of what they believe to be extraterrestrial life. The events that happen next get progressively worse as the movie heads for its unsettling ending.

I always find it more impactful when a movie doesn’t really show the threat, but gives us only glimpses of it. After all, fear of the unknown is one of the humankind’s strongest fears. We experience it through the two astronauts, as they encounter more and more clues of them not being the only living things on the moon. They see something out of the corner of their eyes, and we see short glimpses through their cameras. There are also things like footprints and noises, nothing too direct, not until the very end of the movie. Making the movie look like a “found footage” was a smart move, it adds certain uniqueness and realism. It also allows for some interesting camera work, from using the cameras that astronauts carry, to the cameras installed inside and outside the lunar module. There are plenty of chilling moments, with great acting from Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen, who manage to convey the panic and sheer terror that the astronauts are experiencing in those scenes. The story also takes place mostly in very confined spaces which only adds to the effect.

Decide for yourselves if Apollo 18 is scary enough (I certainly found it so), and if not, enjoy the interesting visual presentation.

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