‘Apollo 18’ brings boredom to space

Article Published: Sep. 8, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 8, 2011
‘Apollo 18’ brings boredom to space

Lloyd Owen stars in ‘Apollo 18.’

The Apollo 18 mission was scrapped during planning. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the film.

“Apollo 18,” the latest “found-footage” horror movie to crash-land on screen, is a groan-inducing 90 minutes of shoddy filmmaking.

Pulling liberally from its more successful counterparts, e.g. “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity,” “Apollo 18” packs no originality or surprises, relying solely on a tedious series of jump scares to keep audiences awake.

Its paper-thin characters are a perfect fit for zero-g, but not so much for effective storytelling, and the shaky, grainy presentation – while necessary, I suppose, for a “found footage” flick – instead comes across as lazy, making audiences wonder if the movie could have been better were it filmed properly –using, you know, cinematography.

Maybe we could’ve actually related somewhat to the characters, but, like the actual Apollo 18 mission, it just wasn’t meant to be. Starring a cast composed mostly of television actors, “Apollo 18” opens with the obligatory disclaimer, claiming the film is the result of edited footage found from an ill-fated voyage to the moon in the 1970s.

We’re hastily introduced to our protagonists, Mission Commander Nathan Walker (Lloyd Owen, TV’s “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”), Capt. Ben Anderson (Warren Christie, TV’s “Happy Town”) and crewman John Grey (Ryan Robbins, TV’s “Battlestar Galactica”), who, through a series of interviews, tell us that NASA and the Department of Defense have partnered together to commission the previously scrapped Apollo 18 mission.

Thanks to archive footage, our unsuspecting crew arrives at the moon, and Nathan and Ben man the lander to the surface. They promptly commence their mission, which involves setting up cameras suspiciously trained on their lander, a detail to which they pay no heed, and begin collecting samples.
But something’s afoot. When back in the lander, their communication systems begin to falter, and they start hearing strange noises rapping against the hull. This continues throughout their mission, and, eventually, they notice bizarre footprints and signs of life – albeit not human – on the moon.

When Walker grows ill, after claiming something was in his spacesuit, Anderson finally exhibits the suspicion that should have been there from the very get-go. One thing leads to another, and director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego (“El Rey de la Montana”) copies every found-footage convention in the book – a terrified character rasping helplessly into the camera, a seemingly possessed character staring at another while he sleeps, and then at the camera for a fast-motion minute.

The problem is that none of this is scary. We’ve seen it before, and we know nothing about these characters that could possibly invest us in their wellbeing. Put frankly, it’s boring as hell, unless your idea of thrills is a man pretending to sleep suddenly yelling into the camera.

Lopez-Gallego tries so hard to make his setting scary, but it just isn’t. The action scenes involve our astronaut heroes walking around in circles and looking at rocks, interspersed with some more jump scares, which you can always see coming a parsec away. It’s not effective storytelling, and by the time “Apollo 18” reaches its predictable conclusion, audience members are laughing and groaning.
But in space, no one can hear you groan.

“Apollo 18,” rated PG-13 for some disturbing sequences and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

For show times, see page 23 or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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