The “found footage” genre is always going to be one of the most scrutinized in film. I have to think that at least 93% of the conversation discussing these kinds of films involve the question of “why did so-and-so keep filming, even when the monster was chasing them?” The audience’s suspension of disbelief, an attribute shared by all successful films, is at its most tenuous during “found footage” films, which include “The Blair Witch Project”, “Paranormal Activity”, and now “Apollo 18”.
This is the main problem, story wise, with “Apollo 18”. We know from the start of the film that some very bad things are going to happen to the crew of Apollo 18. According to the film’s narrative, the Apollo 18 mission was not canceled by NASA, but instead was the last mission to land men on the Moon. However, instead of taking a page from “Paranormal Activity” and allowing the video to be captured from stationary cameras, “Apollo 18” makes the horrible decision to have much of the footage be captured by the astronauts, as they carry around crank camcorders from the 1970s. Unfortunately, by the time you reach the end of the film, it seems impossible that NASA would be able to recover the footage shot by these cameras.
Outside of this story crushing plot hole, “Apollo 18” suffers from being boring. Three astronauts, who look like 2011 television stars dressed up to look like they’re all attending a Neil Armstrong look alike contest, fly to the Moon to collect rock samples and complain about things not working properly. On screen, this is as exciting as it sounds. The three boring characters, two on the Moon surface and one flying around in orbit, blankly stare out windows, pick up Moon rocks with grabby claws, ride around on a lunar lander, and have boring conversations involving malfunctioning machinery and treacherous government officials.
Soon enough, things go to shit. The Moon, it seems, is not as empty as we thought it was. The subsequent discovery of a Soviet landing on the Moon sends our guys into a tizzy, and the aliens attack one astronaut, resulting in his cliched descent into madness. This causes the cliched reaction of his fellow crew members, who keep telling him he’s going to be alright as his face starts to rot and he starts smashing the landing craft with a hammer.
Despite the fantastic looking Moon surface scenery, “Apollo 18” ultimately ends up with too many plot holes and contrived events (fitting that a horror movie would give the astronauts flash lights that work like slow motion strobe lights, right? That makes sense, right? NASA can land on the Moon, but they’re hamstrung when it comes to building a flashlight that actually works). For its final failure, “Apollo 18” just isn’t very scary. And for a horror movie, that just won’t work.