When the “Found Footage” genre of film emerged with an explosion due to the success of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, every year seems to produce at least one film using that style, with mixed results as a whole. With a decline in popularity now, one has to ask, would a Found Footage film set on the moon of all places reinvent the style, or is it to suffer a slow, sad (perhaps necessary) death?
DIRECTOR: Gonzalo López-Gallego
CAST: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins
AGE RESTRICTION: 16 (Violence, Language)
Apollo 18 posits a conspiracy theory for itself right off the bat, in which it claims that during the 1970s, the further space missions to the moon were cancelled, not for monetary reasons as was claimed, but for a far more sinister reason. The film concerns the Apollo 18 mission, which did not fly in real life, but which is claimed to have undergone a secret mission, seen during the events of the film, as a result of footage reclaimed from what the astronauts were using to monitor their mission. This theory is presented as being entirely a real conspiracy, with a link given to a website that claims to have created this film out of the classified evidence they found. It’s a very nice touch, especially when after checking and finding that the website used at the start of the film actually does exist, and contains supporting evidence for the movie.
The film then moves onto focusing on the three astronauts who were part of this failed mission, Commander Nathan Walker (Owen), Lieutenant Colonel John Grey (Robbins) and Captain Ben Anderson (Christie). Grey stays aboard the ship in orbit as Walker and Anderson move down to the surface of the moon for their two day mission. From there, there is a slow development of tension and horror until the inevitable final act.
These three actors are really the only ones in the entire film, aside from a few radio voices and stock footage scenes. This minimalist approach to cast is enjoyable, as it complements the themes well and the setting. This is seen in the way that the loneliness and isolation felt on the moon, with the tiny figure of the Earth hovering overhead, and the vast open plains and craters is juxtaposed against the intense claustrophobia felt with the tiny spaces of the ship and lunar lander the two characters inhabit. The use of enclosed spaces to create horror is done very well throughout this film.
The “Found Footage” itself is constructed very well, with the video initially designed to look entirely like film found at the appropriate year in question, 1974, and so even when the footage starts to look a little more modern at times, the audience hardly notices this, and is drawn into the time and setting of the film.
The three actors carry their parts adequately; it’s very hard to earn an Oscar for a horror movie performance, but there are ways we expect such parts to be played, and these are done as well as could be hoped. Being an attempt to create real footage, there is no score for the film, as is appropriate, and the primary point of interest is in fact this setting that is created for the horror to take place. The film is only 88 minutes long, but uses a lot of mundane or drawn out scenes to create tension in various ways, and so it feels quite a bit longer than this, and may bore some viewers who are unable to draw themselves into the setting.
Apollo 18 will undoubtedly be a hit-or-miss amongst any group of people watching it, but as it is closer to the subtle horror that made Blair Witch so successful, rather than the shock horror seen in so many other Slasher films, it makes an interesting addition to the collection of any horror fan, and is worth a rental at least. If the setting does not terrify you, then the rest of the film won’t either, but “Found Footage in Space” is certainly a new way of interpreting the style.