No, the moon may not be made of cheese, but let me assure you that the latest film about it is.
To the eternal delight of conspiracy theorists, Apollo 18 is sold to us as a found-footage project recovered from a secret mission to the moon, which would have been easier to swallow if it wasn’t so comically serious in its presentation. As it is, I found myself chuckling 10 seconds in and I was not alone.
The film, we are told was ‘shot’ by two members of a three man mission to the moon using their specially equipped cameras a la the Blair Witch Project. They are pilots Nathan Walker and Ben Anderson and some other guy who spends the entire movie orbiting the moon and wondering why there is so much static on his radio. We are supposed to sympathize with these guys and their nervousness over the government’s secrecy, but the performances and the script scream ‘alien fodder’ and that is that.
When they get to the moon, Nathan and Ben get into the lander, leave static man in the orbitor, and touchdown near a big, dark crater. I wonder where the aliens are hiding? Don’t go into the craters Ben, there is no light and the temperature is -1000 degrees. So Ben goes into the crater. Don’t go on unscheduled lunar walks Nathan. So Nathan goes on unscheduled lunar walks. Don’t feed the moon rocks after midnight… er.
Mainly due to terrific audio work and unconscious expectation you find yourself, against all odds, tense by this point, because there are no aliens yet and this movie promised aliens dammit. Then really eerie stuff starts happening; the radio stops working, lights flicker, stuff moves impossibly, and moon rocks end up inside space suits. Aliens you cry! It’s aliens stupid! Flee! So of course they go on more unscheduled space walks. And this is where the movie completely loses you.
As soon as the source of the eeriness is revealed, whatever trace amounts of tension the movie has managed to capture escape like oxygen through a rip in a space suit.
The mysterious and terrifying aliens, are, in fact, lunar hermit crabs. Yes, you read that correctly. Hermit crabs.
The rest of the movie is textbook horror gimmicks, one after another, to the point where the final 90 minute mark (relatively short for a film) feels like it took three hours to arrive. The thing about this film is that you can see traces of great ideas pop up on a regular basis, but director Gonzalo López-Gallego skips his chances. To feel horror, you have to feel connected to the human element. And Apollo 18 doesn’t have one.