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The “found footage” horror movie genre that The Blair Witch Project pioneered so successfully has become a numbing cliché. The latest example of this increasingly tired trend is Apollo 18, which purports to show actual footage of an ultra-secret, three-man 1974 lunar mission. It comes to us compliments of “lunartruth.com,” apparently the space-oriented branch of WikiLeaks.
After a lengthy delay, it is finally hitting movie theaters over Labor Day weekend, the cinematic equivalent of entering it in the Witness Protection Program.
Not only is this film’s form clichéd, so is its content. Composed entirely of the sort of grainy, blurry footage that a generation of space buffs grew up watching on television, it depicts an ill-fated mission undertaken by three astronauts, including two (Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen) who land on the lunar surface. There, much to their shock, they encounter a damaged Russian space capsule and the remains of a cosmonaut who clearly didn’t die of natural causes.
STORY: ‘Apollo 18’ Is ‘Not a Documentary,’ Says NASA
Violent mayhem inevitably ensues, as one of the astronauts falls victim to tiny creepy crawly creatures that get into his space suit, his helmet, and eventually, Alien-style, into his body. As his physical condition worsens and he becomes mentally unhinged, his partner frantically tries to get help from an increasingly unhelpful Mission Control.
STORY: ‘Apollo 18’ Touches Down For Vancouver Shoot
Judging by the seemingly infinite variety of camera angles, this was apparently the most photographed mission in the history of space travel. But while director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego provides suitably ragged and aged visuals that look entirely authentic, they quickly prove tiresome and make the brief running time feel endless. The film’s few scares don’t come from anything truly creepy or imaginative but instead from jarring cuts and loud sound effects.
The increasingly hysterical performances by the lead actors suggest not so much ultra-cool, seasoned astronauts but rather frightened teen boys trapped in a haunted house. A famous tag line from a far better film once declared that “in space, no one can hear you scream.” In the case of Apollo 18, no one will be heard screaming in theaters either.
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