“Apollo 18” Should Stay Lost In Space

When was the last time you walked out of a movie so pissed off that you couldn’t see straight because you had wasted both your time and money on a highly hyped film that turned out to be so deplorably bad that mere words could not describe how incredibly awful it really was? This is a very easy question for me to answer.

I’ve always enjoyed a good, scary movie, although I must admit that good ones don’t come along all that often. Back in 1999 I began reading about a film that was frightening viewers so badly that they were passing out and throwing up in theaters. Some people who watched the film went so far as vowing never to step foot in the woods again. In addition to the accounts about how the film was practically driving people insane, many critics were singing its praises. Of course, I knew that I had to see it if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity. And I went!

The film was titled “The Blair Witch Project,” and as far as I’m concerned, it occupies a place all by itself as the greatest rip-off in the history of cinema. It purported to be the true story about three student filmmakers who decided to brave the woods near Burkittsville, Md., where a number of children had gone missing since the 1940s. The cause of these disappearances was said to be The Blair Witch, and the three young moviemakers decided to make a documentary about this urban legend.

The longer I sat watching this horrendously horrible movie, the more incredulous I became. In addition to being shot by handheld cameras apparently manned by people suffering recurring seizures, the movie packed all the fight punch of a walk through the gift shop at the Good Zoo.

Now I’m not saying that “Apollo 18” is as bad as “The Blair Witch Project,” but it’s a damn close second. Billed as a thriller, this overly hyped, overly publicized joke of a film belongs floating around in outer space so that no one can be subjected to its ludicrously moronic and laughably imbecilic premise.

The tagline for this abomination reads, “There’s a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.” If you have followed the Apollo program, you know that the last official manned flight to the moon was Apollo 17, which blasted off on Dec. 17, 1972. But the premise of this film is that another mission to the moon was kept a secret from the American people, and the movie is supposed to be actual footage from that mission. RIGHT! And the horrifying events experienced by the two astronauts on that trip are the reason that we have never again gone back to the moon.

The film begins like a documentary with interviews of the Apollo 18 crew, and then we watch them blast off into space. We join them in the spacecraft on their voyage and are treated to hearing what they eat, and we even have the opportunity to watch them sleep. Then they land on the moon, and we get to what is supposed to be the meat of this meatless film.

Now if you want to waste your money on this sham of a film, I don’t want to spoil any surprises in it. Therefore, I will reveal only that the astronauts make some shocking discoveries on the moon, and these include a Russian lunar-landing module. They also find some footprints, and for a minute I thought I was watching a film titled “Big Foot on the Moon.” That is how absolutely ludicrous this entire film is.

It’s bad enough that we are asked to buy into the preposterous idea of this movie, but what is even worse is what we are asked to accept as the ultimate horror the astronauts find up there. I actually laughed out loud.

Those people who were frightened as they watched “The Blair Witch Project” probably will love this movie because it is the same plot except that it takes place in space, which is exactly where it belongs. Of course if the sight of a strange footprint on the surface of the moon makes you break out in a cold sweat, this is the film for you.

In addition to having a problem with the major idea behind the movie, I also found much of the soundtrack to be irritating. In their attempt to add realism to one of the most unrealistic movies ever made, the filmmakers made copious use of static to simulate communication between the astronauts and their home base. It wasn’t long before the constant crackling during the dialogue became more a distraction than an asset.

Although the filmmakers have promoted this movie as something they call “found-footage” that doesn’t use actors, the two astronauts are indeed portrayed by actors named Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen, both of whom turn out to be adequate screamers. This “found-footage” genre includes such films as “The Blair Witch Project,” the “Paranormal Activity” movies, and “Cloverfield.”

So here’s the bottom line on “Apollo 18,” which earns a final score of two because I found a couple of good things about it. The first one is that it’s running time of only 86 minutes is mercifully short, and I awarded it a point for that. And I gave it another point because near the end there is a brief clip of the late President John F. Kennedy declaring, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

I would never give anything with Kennedy in it zero; however, “Apollo 18,” is a perfect example of a “found-footage” film that should have remained forever lost.





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