Monday With Mildred: "Apollo 18"

Apollo 18 movie poster

Apollo 18

So, I dug out a film I found in a Walmart cheapie bin a while back and watched it. I assume I bought it because it’s about a deep conspiracy involving the Lunar landings back in the 1970s, and I love conspiracy stuff. Because it was in the cheapie bin I didn’t expect the film to be much better than a home movie, but I was wrong, it’s an actual film with real actors and sets. 

Apollo 18 is basically The Blair Witch Project meets Paranormal Activity, on the Moon. The premise is that Apollo 18 was officially scrubbed but secretly sent by the Department of Defense. They find more than they were looking for, and forty years later “lost” footage has been released so we can know the truth. At the top are some intertitles that give the “history” of the program:

“In 1970, Apollo missions 18, 19, and 20 were cancelled due to budgetary concerns.

Apollo 17 was the final official mission.

In 2011, eight-four hours of classified footage is uploaded to”*

That’s a great premise, because found footage films can be pretty good if done right. I didn’t care for The Blair Witch Project, but a lot of people loved it. I did like Paranormal Activity, and absolutely loved the Spanish zombie film [rec]. Because it’s ewww history, a lot of people will take everything at face value and be even more frightened by the movie. Some will probably try the lunar truth web site, which may have existed at one time but no longer does. If they go to the trouble of googling the Apollo program they will discover that Apollo 17 actually was the last “official” lander sent from Earth and lend weight to the rest of the conspiracy story.

Most of the film is the Paranormal Activity-style buildup. Every bit is designed to look like film from that era, with a different tonal quality than we’re used to and the documentary sensibilities of that time. Costuming was terrific. In other words, everyone looked terrible in the film, just as everyone looked terrible in the 70s. Sets were generally the Lunar Lander, which is a cramped and by modern standards low tech area, or the astronauts on the Moon’s surface where any tiny problem can kill you. The whole thing is nicely claustrophobic. The producers really hit the conspiracy part of it hard, which was fun. I love wacky conspiracies. The “found footage” started out great but degraded some later. For instance, we begin to see close ups and high and wide shots that wouldn’t or couldn’t have been made by the astronauts. There wasn’t too much of that, but it was jarring.

There were a few technical things that I noticed, like there being graduated shadows on the Moon. There’s no air. It’s either in shadow or it is not, there’s no in-between. Same with temperature. It’s either in the sun and 260 F, or it’s out of the sun and -280 F. We can forgive the filmmakers that, though, since this Lunar landing actually was shot on Earth. The astronauts’ dialogue sounded very much of the time. I felt like he was quoting a real astronaut when he said, “When you look out the window, I feel like something might be looking back at you.” The line was just part of the creepy stuff that began appearing a tiny bit at a time, aimed at making the viewer confused and anxious. By the time we reached the awesome jump scare I was shocked in a good horror movie kinda way. 

This movie is never going to win any best of awards, but it’s a solid horror movie that relies on the viewer being taken in, even if just a little, by the conspiracy angle and a general lack of knowledge of that era. The acting, costuming, cinematography and set design are all well done. I recommend this if you’re in the mood to be unsettled and at least once startled out of your seat. 


Apollo 18 (2011) – Official Trailer [HD]

* If you go to that site it is down. Boo! If you do a Google search for “lunar truth” you get this. – CFR: In Addition

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