So, the long-delayed “found footage” horror film Apollo 18 was finally released at the beginning of this month and critics, both mainstream and not-so-mainstream, have been having a collective orgy in expressing their hated for the film. It currently has a “rotten” rating over on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert — a man who gave the god-awful remake of Straw Dogs a positive review (“better than the original!”) — didn’t care much for it. Over at Hitfix.com, the appropriately named Drew McWeeny practically popped a blood vessel expressing his hatred of the film. (McWeeny followed this up by giving Shark Night 3-D a positive review.) The toadsuckers at AwardsDaily.com haven’t even acknowledged that Apollo 18 exists. (Then again, the folks in charge of that movie site have lately been more obsessed with Barack Obama’s reelection chances than with film.) Yes, everyone’s been busy hating on Apollo 18 but you know what?
I kind of enjoyed it.
As the film’s trailer makes pretty obvious, Apollo 18 is the latest example of the mockumentary horror film. At the start of the film, we get a title card telling us that the film has been edited together from long-classified footage of a secret NASA mission to the moon. At the end of the film, we get another title card inviting us to visit a web site that, presumably, will have more information about how this footage was discovered. The found footage shows us two pleasantly bland astronauts who, once they’ve landed on the moon, find themselves being stalked by some sort of shadowy creature that always seems to be hanging out just slightly out of camera range.
As many critics pointed out, this film’s plot — once you get pass the novelty of where it takes place — is pretty much standard as far as “found footage” horror movies are concerned and yes, Apollo 18 would never have been made if not for the success of Paranormal Activity. However, I still enjoyed Apollo 18 because — unlike the Paranormal Activity films — Apollo 18 is truly an homage to the Grindhouse heart that beats within the whole found footage genre. Whether it’s the gimmicky nature of the film’s storyline or even the attempt to recreate both the Space program and the moon for next to no money, Apollo 18 is a film that belongs in a double feature with some other critically reviled but fun horror film. Much like Ruggero Deodato did with Cannibal Holocaust, director Gonalo Lopez-Gallego artfully uses scratched and overexposed film stock to create the feeling that we actually are watching footage that somebody just happened to come across out in the middle of the desert. The film’s plot is predictable and there’s not a lot of jump-out-of-your-seat scares but, like many good grindhouse films, Apollo 18 does create a palpable feeling of doom that doesn’t let up until the end credits. Even the film’s tongue-in-cheek claims to being factual are, in the end, rather likable.
Apollo 18 may not be a great film but it’s certainly doesn’t deserve the amount of hatred that it’s received. It’s an occasionally enjoyable film that was made by people who, at the very least, seem to understand why the old films of the grindhouse era are still being watched and rediscovered today.