Jesus Take The (Lunar) Wheel: Apollo 18

Published on September 29th, 2011 in: Found Footage, Halloween, Horror, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews, Science and Technology, Science Fiction |

By Emily Carney

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11’s lunar module Eagle landed on Earth’s Moon, beginning three years of unsurpassed, spectacular lunar voyages.

On December 14, 1972, Apollo 17’s lunar module Challenger departed the Moon’s surface, leaving a massive void in manned lunar exploration which continues to exist until the present time.

In the beginning of the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy sent out a resounding, powerful call to have a man walk on the Moon by the end of that decade, and NASA was wholly successful in their goal to meet such a momentous deadline.

It took Hollywood well over 50 years from that point to make Apollo 18. To paraphrase JFK, at the beginning of this decade, we made the worst space horror film, ever.

apollo 18

Apollo 18 does possess some interesting moments: the CGI effects—such as the little “moon rock” creepy-crawly aliens, and the lunar surface itself—look pretty cool. The actors in this movie also have the swingin’ 1970s astronaut look down pat. The mission commander looks exactly like shuttle astronaut Joe Engle (who, upon seeing this film, probably wanted to throw a brick through the screen). However, the movie completely loses any credibility in many very important historical aspects (although I seriously doubt the filmmakers were going for accuracy with this stinker). The film does get help from some strategically placed vintage NASA file footage in some areas, which livens things up slightly . . .

. . . And that’s about where l the historical accuracies of this film end. How could NASA just explain away a Saturn V rocket launching in late 1974 for no friggin’ reason whatsoever? I had a buddy who actually worked on Apollo back in the day, and he told me those launches (especially at night, when Apollo 18 was supposed to be launched) could easily light up the East Coast like an atomic bomb detonation. (Remember, Saturn V was a huge rocket with a lot of thrust. This film proves it. Just watch.)

Additionally, the plot is completely predictable, and I hate to say this, but I knew exactly what was going to happen to the poor jackasses in Apollo 18 before I even got 15 minutes into the damn film. So here’s a capsule summary: they land on the Moon, find a dead cosmonaut, get attacked by aliens, and they all freakin’ die. THE END. That’s really the whole film. The word “predictable” is almost too predictable of an adjective to even begin to describe Apollo 18. In fact, I think I broke my computer’s thesaurus trying to find more synonyms for “predictable.” (My hard drive is going to start smoking a cigarette in about two seconds.)

Okay, now let’s diverge from the film’s entirely shitty plot (seriously, it was like the bastard child of Marooned and The Blair Witch Project). As a space enthusiast, I actually found this film quite offensive. A lot of recent space-themed films (including the latest Transformers debacle) have capitalized upon “NASA conspiracy theories” during perhaps one of the agency’s lowest low points in decades. We currently don’t have a manned space vehicle and budget cuts have wiped out NASA’s workforce, along with many planned programs which would have advanced scientific knowledge (which, if you didn’t know, was still important in the continuum of education, but hey, whatever man!). This NASA conspiracy stuff has probably done nothing but add combustible nightmare fuel to the thousands of tinfoil hat-wearing people out there who still think the moon landings were faked. In other words, where’s Buzz Aldrin and his mighty fist when you need them the most?

borman phone

If you’re a serious, discerning fan of Apollo minutiae, check out the wealth of Apollo-related footage on YouTube, or even better, check out NASA’s manned spaceflight photo archives. Apollo 18, despite its cool “vintage-y” footage, is not the place to go to get your manned spaceflight kicks, or even horror kicks, unless you like to see a lot of heavy-handed grossness and gratuitous blood n’ guts. (And if you really care, the Joe Engle lookalike gets straight up destroyed by these crazy aliens! Man, he was too cool to die. This was when I really started to hate the movie.)

If you want to see a truly frightening space film, see Event Horizon, which was made in 1997 but remains completely horrifying. No joke, I screamed in the theater while watching that movie. See it with some good friends and a fuzzy, comforting animal, please, if you want to experience some genuine space terror.

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