Apollo 18: Blair Witch Project in Space
Hollywood has never had a shortage of films based on conspiracy theories. Even ones about the space race. Growing up in the 70’s, one of my favorite movies was Capricorn One, which posited that moon landings had been faked by NASA and the U.S. government. Viewed today, the movie comes off as a bit forced and silly at times, but to my impressionable teenage mind, it was brilliant stuff.
Jump ahead a few decades, and Hollywood has churned out another space-themed conspiracy story involving a supposedly non-existent space mission, Apollo 18. Three astronauts are sent to the moon on what is supposed to be a routine mission to collect more rocks. With one astronaut remaining in orbit piloting the Apollo 18 craft, the other two land on the moon and begin the two day mission. Naturally, things start to go awry. Strange noises can be heard outside the ship and rock samples mysteriously find their way out of the sealed collection bags. But things get really strange when they discover the body of a dead Russian cosmonaut in a shallow crater, not far from their LEM. The fact that there is even a Russian craft not two kilometers from their landing zone makes the astronauts suspect that their government knew the Soviets had been there all along.
The rest of the film is a pastiche of suspense and horror movie cliches involving one of the astronauts getting “infected” by something they encounter in a crater, as well as a gradual descent into paranoia by both men. All of this is caught on a series of cameras which are both on board the LEM and set up and outside for routine observations. The director is clearly trying to piggyback the same style that has made the Blair Witch Project and, more recently, Paranormal Activity, so successful. They even go as far as claiming that the film was created from real, on-board footage, and direct viewers to a website called http://www.lunartruth.com (which doesn’t seem to be an active site anymore, if it ever was).
While the film does generate a few legitimate scares, and benefits from some creative editing, too much of the story feels forced at times. There is never much doubt about where it’s heading. Even though it tries to retain a sense of vagueness with unexplained events, this also contributes to it not making a lot of sense. The acting from the tiny cast of three is pretty average, and although a grainy style makes the film seem authentic, too many modern editing styles creep in, jarring audiences out of the sense of time and place they might otherwise have.
On the surface, the concept of this film is intriguing, but the end result falls a bit flat. At least it clocks in at 86 minutes, including credits. Brevity probably saves it from bring a complete train wreck. In the end, it’s an average horror thriller that probably won’t have a long shelf life.