When a film arrives trailed by TV ads and bus posters but a notable lack of press previews, the expectation is that it’s unwatchably bad. But while ‘Apollo 18’ isn’t about to win any awards, there will be far worse films released in cinemas this year.
It’s best approached as a kind of minimalist horror movie, short on character development and narrative logic but possessing a sort of sparse, ragged charm. The film is constructed entirely of blurry, unconvincing but oddly compelling ‘found footage’ of a secret moon mission mounted by NASA, under the direction of the Department of Defence. Three interchangeably all-American astronauts – played by actors who remain uncredited, perhaps with good reason – are sent up to plant a mysterious tracking device, ostensibly to spy on Russian missile installations. But the discovery of a Soviet spaceship, and its mysteriously deceased inhabitant, lead our plucky heroes to consider the possibility that they might not be alone.
There’s a lot about ‘Apollo 18’ that simply doesn’t work: the effects are Z-grade, the plot goes precisely nowhere and the big revelation is frankly idiotic. But there’s a fair amount to enjoy, too: the intentionally rough editing and jagged sound design create an atmosphere of unsettling uncertainty, and the film has more than its share of cheap but effective jolts. For sci-fi fans with cash to burn and 90 minutes to kill, this just about achieves liftoff.