Monday, September 5, 2011

Not Swiss Cheese: Apollo 18

Borrowing the style of the “actual footage” genre, Apollo 18 adopts science fiction trappings and takes us to the moon where it builds more suspense and delivers more satisfying chills than all the thumps in the night of the Paranormal Activity movies.

Purporting to be the found footage of the top secret, forgotten Apollo 18 Mission, the movie sets out to reveal why NASA has stayed away from the moon since the 70s. Needless to say, crew members Ben (Warren Christie), Nate (Lloyd Owen), and John (Ryan Robbins) encounter more than just lifeless moonscapes, but I shall reveal no details here. As Ben, Warren Christie is especially intense and convincing as his blandly technical astronaut's tone turns to panic.

Since the story takes place in 1974, the crew members employ fixed 16 mm cameras (no camcorders here), and we get some stark black and white shots of the astronauts isolated in a barren terrain, an atmosphere which sets an eerie tone. Meanwhile, the claustrophobic lunar landing module, along with the delicate limits of the protection it offers, intensifies the urgency of the danger. If a demon haunts your house, you can leave the room or go stay with a friend, but on the moon there are no neighbors.

As a big-budget, color film enhanced with elaborate CGI, Apollo 18 could have been a major sci-fi epic, but what the filmmakers achieve here with three actors, a couple of tight interior sets, and murky shots of the lunar wasteland is quite impressive. This is an enjoyable little movie.

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