Title: Apollo 18
Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego
Starring: Warren Christie (TV’s ‘Alphas’), Lloyd Owen (‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’)
The mockumentary has become a popular sub-genre in the horror film category in recent years, as the films in the genre often scare people into believing the horrifying events depicted in the plot can come true. But the new Dimension Films sci-fi horror thriller ‘Apollo 18,’ which stars Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen as two astronauts on the fabled manned mission to the moon, regrettably deviates from what makes mockumentarys so enjoyable-an interesting reasoning on why the events are being filmed, and relatable characters who can make it out of any situation.
Set in December 1973, a year after the eleventh and final known manned mission to the moon, ‘Apollo 18′ follows the U.S. government telling the public that further missions have been canceled, due to budget cuts. However, the Department of Defense sends three astronauts on a secret Apollo mission to place spy equipment on the moon’s surface to monitor the USSR.
Two of the astronauts land the craft, while the third stays in the shuttle. The two who land the craft discover an abandoned USSR pod that’s covered in blood, and a deceased Cosmonaut with a rock protruding from his leg. While the Department of Defense denies they knew of the Soviets being on the moon, the two become worried when they find their flag goes missing, and their communication equipment increasingly starts to cut out. While trying to get home, what makes matters worse is the fact that rocks that appear to turn into spiders find a way into one of the astronaut’s suits, and the possibility that aliens have landed on the moon.
‘Apollo 18′ garnered attention prior to its release, as it’s Spanish filmmaker Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s English-language directorial debut, and he has made a name for himself in the thriller genre. Bob Weinstein, the founder of Dimension Films, the studio that released the movie, has also claimed that all the footage featured is real. But the sci-fi horror thriller failed to live up to its hype, as it neglected to develop its main characters. While audiences will surely want the astronauts to survive, little is revealed about them, except that they do have families at home. Not knowing why they agreed to take part in the secret mission, what they knew about it before they launched and why they even became astronauts in the first place makes them unrelatable. Lopez-Gallego also failed to create a backstory for the astronauts, much less differentiate between the two, which makes it difficult to understand their actions and motivations.
Not only is the lack of character development disappointing, so is the absence of an interesting storyline. Lopez-Gallego gives no detailed reasoning behind why the astronauts are being attacked by the spider-like rocks. The characters also only briefly mention the possibility of an alien landing.Instead of including so much light-hearted banter between the characters, they should have spent more time trying to figure out why they were being targeted. Including the discovery of the abandoned Russian spacecraft provided the director with a great lead-in as to why the astronauts were being attacked, but the director disappointingly missed out on an amble opportunity.
‘Apollo 18′ was also subpar to other sci-fi films in the fact that it also lacked riveting special effects and scares. Action films are often known for supplementing lack of character and plot development with stunning explosions, but Lopez-Gallego didn’t include any effects that thriller fans haven’t already seen. While the film is supposed to take place in 1973, and is shown through the astronaut’s footage, the moon and space shuttle sets were often grainy and difficult to see. There were also surprisingly very few shots of the rocks, considering they’re determined to be what’s hurting the characters.
Sci-fi thrillers are known for their intense, non-stop action sequences and impressive visual effects, but ‘Apollo 18′ unfortunately fails to include either. The lack of spectacular effects, which are often the most impressive aspect in action films, further damages the movie’s unmemorable characters and little-developed plot-line. Lopez-Gallego ill-planned English debut reminds audiences why the box office is often over-looked during Labor Day weekend, and that working harder on developing the story, characters and stunts can often lead to more intriguing films.
Written by: Karen Benardello