‘Houston, we have a problem’

Apollo 18
Photo provided by filmofilia.com

new-2starhalf

Halloween is just around the corner, which means that there are a lot of movies coming out of either the slasher, thriller or horror genres to get you in the mood to give candy to some little kid dressed as a ghost, or some college student dressed as a zombie. One of these movies is “Apollo 18,” directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego (“El Rey de la Montaña”), which is about the “officially” cancelled Apollo 18 mission but which apparently wasn’t cancelled and sent to the moon where bad things happened.

“Apollo 18” is the most recent in a line of the incredibly overdone “found-footage” sub-genre of horror movies where the camera is shaky, the quality is poor and the movie tries so hard to pretend that what you’re seeing is real, but then the end credits role and you realize that it had a director and writers working on it. Since this sub-genre has been done before, you can pretty much guess what happens throughout most of the movie. Which is a shame, because the movie had some cool concepts to work with too.

Three astronauts are stranded on the moon with poor communications, so there is some isolation to play with, and some claustrophobia as well; when they’re in their small spaceship. However, it doesn’t play off of these concepts too much and just tries to rip of the “Paranormal Activity” movies step-by-step.

It even makes the mistake that “Paranormal Activity 2” made, where there are multiple camera angles which are constantly being switched from one to the other, which ends up diffusing any tension that the movie might have otherwise had. Without tension, the movie’s attempted scares end up being small startles. If you’re a horror fanatic, you can see the startles coming which just leaves you incredibly bored and uninterested.

Besides the other flaws, the film also has bad characterization. Now, to the credit of actors Warren Christie (TV’s “Alphas”), Lloyd Owen (“Inside the Box”) and Ryan Robbins (“Cold Blooded”); they are pretty convincing at their parts. However, the problem is that all of their characters are inter-changeable and therefore, badly written. It’s hard to find a single difference between any of them. The only information provided about them are small, segmented interviews from the characters taking place before the mission, but the only part of slight significance is that of Christie’s character, whose name is only briefly mentioned and is never said again, has a family. That’s all you ever learn about him.

Since you know, or learn, nothing about any of the characters, it’s hard to care about what happens to them when the space monsters attack. The monsters, which are the focal point of the whole movie, are off-camera throughout most of the movie in that “found-footage” kind of way. However, viewers will be glad that they are by the end because what they actually end up being is extremely disappointing.

There’s a simple test on whether or not you’re going to end up liking this movie. Did you like “Paranormal Activity”? It is basically that, except in space, which actually could be an interesting idea if done better.