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Apollo 18 - Film Review

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by Matt Elliot Taylor (subscribe)
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
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"There is a reason we've never gone back to the Moon" reads the tagline for this upcoming horror sci-fi Apollo 18.

Compiled and edited from 84 hours of classified film negative that was apparently leaked earlier this year on the internet, Apollo 18 chronicles the last 'unofficial' NASA mission to the Moon. Launched in secret in 1974, three astronauts – Commander Nate Walker, Lt. Col. John Grey and Capt. Ben Anderson – travel to the moon to place detectors to monitor USSR lunar actions. While Grey remains in orbit aboard the command module, the other two land on the Moon and begin their work. While there they hear strange noises, and begin investigating. Before long they discover the ruins of a Russian space shuttle not far away and discover the crew deteriorated. As the pace finally begins to pick up a little, the two astronauts begin finding signs of extra-terrestrial life and Anderson is ultimately infected.

With this interesting premise strengthened by some sort of grounding in historic fact (don't worry, it's fiction), the atmosphere definitely has some very creepy elements: the isolation of being on the Moon, the mysterious movement around the space shuttle site and of course the 'found footage' aesthetic, which sadly becomes nothing we haven't seen before. With films like The Blair Witch Project [1999] and the Paranormal Activity franchise cleaning up at the box office, it comes as no surprise that this film will generate some interest and has had quite an effective marketing campaign as a result. However, it is very slow-moving, taking it a while for the stakes to be raised when Houston severs contact (implicating them as being the real 'bad guys'). The grainy, jumpy, damaged 16mm film stock will become annoying for some viewers and as a result, the actors don't have much to work with, paying more attention to whether the camera captures what the director (Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego with his first English-speaking feature) wants it to capture.

Like its predecessors in this sub-genre, Apollo 18 is bookended by a prologue and epilogue lending credence to the factual nature of it and it does well to remind us it's 1974 with references to the Watergate scandal and the music coming from a tape recorder. When the film approaches the final act and Walker becomes increasingly neurotic and violent due to the parasitic infection, the tension finally builds for one last hoorah that will hopefully ensure the audience stays until the credits roll (yes, it has end credits).

**1/2 out of *****

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Why? 'Paranormal Activity' fans may get a kick out of it
When: January 12, 2012 (Aus), September 2, 2011 (US/UK)
Where: Your local cinema
Cost: Check your local cinema for details
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