‘Apollo 18′ Review

Published 4 years ago by

Apollo 18 Review Apollo 18 Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Apollo 18

Ever since the Blair Witch Project debuted back in 1999, found-footage films have been a major source of income for movie studios due to an extremely low budgets and remarkably high returns. For example, Paranormal Activity 2 cost $3 million to make and raked in $177 million worldwide. While larger productions may make a significantly higher net-income for a studio (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), they also carry a greater risk of financial failure (Green Lantern). As a result, low cost found-footage productions, with unknown actors, small crews, and low production values are a no-brainer for movie executives.

As a result, it should come as no surprise that after exploring supernatural subjects such as witches and demons, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood added aliens to the genre with Apollo 18. However, has the found-footage movie genre finally discovered a frontier that it cannot conquer (i.e. make money from) or does Apollo 18 open up a whole new potential franchise?

Unfortunately Apollo 18 proves that not every found-footage scenario can deliver an entertaining time at the theater. Whether due to an overly-long set-up, a predictable plot progression, ho-hum reveals, as well as an idiotic and mostly familiar threat, Apollo 18 fails to build tension, deliver legitimate scares, or introduce an intriguing sci-fi mythology.

Instead, the basic premise of the film borrows from other sci-fi horror space films – and proceeds to execute them in less interesting ways. The story follows three astronauts in December of 1974 who are sent on a top secret mission (Apollo 18) to the moon, in order to deploy a series of transmitters designed to intercept Soviet signals… or so they think. As is apparent in every aspect of the film’s marketing, two of the astronauts land on the moon (while the other orbits, piloting their ride home) and soon discover that something is amiss in one of the craters. As the days tick down on the mission, the situation becomes increasingly unusual – and the astronauts begin to suspect that they weren’t actually sent on a mission to monitor the Soviets, but were sent to the moon to draw out a dangerous threat to humanity.

Apollo 18 Warren Christie Lloyd Owen Apollo 18 Review

Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen in 'Apollo 18'

Cory Goodman (who also penned Priest) had a hand in the script and the dialogue – and subsequent performances are adequate. However, found footage movies aren’t about believable acting or relatable character interactions – they’re about captivating tension and cathartic scares. There’s no doubt that on paper, the Apollo 18 story sounds like a sure-fire success at the box office – however on the screen, the film fails at nearly every single element that made prior found-footage stories enjoyable.

First thing: Surprises. There are next to no surprising developments in the film – with the exception of how surprisingly uninteresting the alien threat turns out to be. Nearly every would-be jump-scare is telegraphed by an overly-familiar set-up: i.e. a close-up shot of one of the astronauts snoring. As a result, there are very few legitimately unpredictable moments in the film, and even when the “action” picks up, Apollo 18 has already failed to build substantial tension – so the closing minutes mostly bump along as expected. The scares, and over-arching storyline, will be especially flat for anyone who has seen one of the Apollo 18 trailers – which give away nearly every would-be shocker in the film.

Second thing: Fear of the unknown. As mentioned, the alien threat in the film is especially lazy. Unlike similar films, which successfully educated audiences on some unknown entity such as the paranormal (before subsequently unleashing their respective “monsters”), the filmmakers do very little to establish any kind of mystery or mythology around the film’s antagonist – withholding everything but face-value info. At no point in Apollo 18  does an “expert” or more informed character crack open the core set-up to ground the flat series of events in something more interesting. There’s something to be said for a film that throws the audience into an inexplicable scenario and creates tension by showing the unfolding events through equally clueless characters; however, that only works when there are worthwhile layers of mystery to uncover. Instead, when it comes to Apollo 18, viewers are forced to watch a series of unscary and uninteresting events unfold, without ever becoming privy to a worthwhile context.

Apollo 18 Footage Apollo 18 Review

The found footage from 'Apollo 18'

Third thing: Competent camera work. By far one of the least successful aspects of the film is the actual implementation of the cameras that recorded the found-footage. As in similar films, heavy suspension of disbelief is required (i.e. the camera is, for some reason, the most important thing imaginable – even when you’re running for your life); however, unlike similar films, the camera work in Apollo 18 is boring at best – and more often than not, flat-out nauseating. Where the scares in a film like Paranormal Activity play out through static shots of creepy events unfolding, Apollo 18 tends to skew toward a collection of blurry and/or frenetic images that, with the exception of a frame here or there, show nothing of interest while presenting the empty story in the most uncomfortable way imaginable.

As a result, it’s nearly impossible to recommend Apollo 18 to anyone but the most staunch found-footage genre fans – as the film fails nearly every requirement of a tense and enjoyable time at the theater. If nothing else, the movie stands as a stark example that not every premise is ripe for the found-footage treatment. That said, it’s hard to imagine Apollo 18 will not be a money-maker for the studio - even though the film cost nearly twice as much as Paranormal Activity 2 (a “whopping” $5 million) - meaning, despite being one of the sloppiest films of 2011, we’ll probably be seeing an Apollo 19.

If you’re still on the fence about Apollo 18, check out the trailer below:


[poll id="186"]


Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick - and let us know what you thought of the film below:

Apollo 18 is now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

1 out of 5

TAGS: Apollo 18
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  1. Lmao, I think anyone who thought this movie would be good is just overly optimistic and suffers from wishful thinking. I knew this was going to suck from seeing the first teaser…

  2. Yeah, I think someone saw back to back trailers for Transformers Dark of The Moon and Paranormal Activity 2, then ran out of the theater to “write” the screenplay.

  3. Wow, I really didn’t think this would be THAT bad.

    Thanks, Ben.

    • Did you see the movie Steve, or are you forming an opinion about what the article says?

      The movie was terrible, and I can say that because I went and saw it at the matinee with my brother.

    • Yes, much worse than I thought was possible.

  4. I knew something was amiss when no one was allowed to review this until the day of release. Almost no film is good when that happens.

    • Yes, and that is because of the easily led sheep who don’t see a movie based on the reviews. Thanks to the internet, people don’t go watch movies anymore, they read a review and base their opinions on that.

      The same as when bad movies do good in the box office, because one person who gets to have their opinion published on a site like this or in a newspaper says it’s great.

      Sadly, I used to be one of those sheep. When “Napolean Dynamite” first hit theatres, I read everywhere how hilarious the film was. Everyone in my class told me it was the funniest movie ever. I still didn’t get to see it because I didn’t have the cash, and neither did my parents (I was 15 at the time). So when it hit DVD and I had extra spending money, I went out and dished out $20 based on the stellar reviews for it. BOY! Was I disappointed.

      That’s why you form your own opinions instead of going by what positive or negative things a review says about a film. because just because a cynical “critique” has something negative to say, doesn’t mean that there is no way you personally wouldn’t like it.

      • I meant critic, not critique.

      • Napoleon Dynamite is funny as hell

      • Have you tried watching Napoleon Dynamite again? I found it unwatchable the first time but a friend forced me to watch it again. On the second viewing, I couldn’t believe how funny it was! I’ve heard a lot of others say this too.

        • Ditto. Much funnier upon subsequent viewings.

      • I went and watch Captain America ( TFA )because it was highly rated here on this site. Boy, was I wrong ! It was crap. Green Lantern wasn’t as terrible as CA although it’s not perfect. The review on Green Lantern is absolutely harsh. I think Captain America should be no different. But being an American propaganda icon probably helped to get some good reviews. If that one thing to be learned from this, reviews does not tell you much. Better to form your own opinion.

      • Napoleon Dynamite was a tremendously stupid waste of time. They even thought about doing a sequel to it, but at the last minute someone came to their senses, and they never did a sequel. I saw it only because I actually look amazingly like Napoleon Dynamite (excuse my nerdiness!), and my wife and son made me watch it because everyone but everyone commented on the similarities in our features. I gotta admit, they were kinda right about that. Otherwise, this dynamite deserved to be blown up! (I pity the poor guy!!).

  5. Um technically green arrow is in the green now since its over 200K.

    • Marketing pushed the cost of Green Lantern closer to $300 million. It’s no quite a success story yet.

  6. lol meant Green Lantern

  7. 1 star? that bad? i’ll probably wait for the DVD just to feed my curiosity.

    • You shouldn’t base your opinion on the amount of stars it got on this site. Read the article.

  8. Did you actually get to see the aliens and what they looked like. A clear shot?

  9. For one thing, the found-footage crap was played out after “Blair Witch Project.” With Blair Witch, they were able to convince many people that it was real. That we were watching the final moments of three teens as they were picked off by some unseen force. Then they made the big reveal of the cast and everyone who believed the movie thought, “WOW!! WE’RE STUPID!!!”

    After that, none of those movies were worth a damn. Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 are insanely overrated. They were so bad my brother couldn’t stop laughing through the second one. So of course this “Apollo 18″ was going to be terrible.

    Found-footage is well past it’s time. It wore out it’s welcome over 10 years ago, and it saddens me that studios still insult us with their existance. Such as the existance of the upcoming “Paranormal Inactivity 3″. Oh, did I say inactivity? Because that’s exactly what I meant. Nothing happened that was worth seeing in either Paranormal Activity movie.

    • Agreed! I can’t understand why everyone thinks Paranormal Inactivity is remotely scary. The reason I liked Blair Witch was because I thought it was real (I was actually a bit saddened when I found out it wasn’t real). Also, it the first time I had seen a found- footage movie so it was somewhat unpredictable.

  10. Gary..stop..

    • I second that

      • He has been stopped.


  11. Love one star reviews. They are singularly entertaining.
    Everything you wrote, Ben, has confirmed my suspicions.
    You don’t have to see some movies to know they are bad.

  12. In case you don’t want to see this (hopefully everyone), but want to know what the awful monster is… here’s a review that spoils it in the first sentence:


  13. I heard a critic say on the radio today,
    “It puts the “stu” back in stupid”.

  14. Disappointing to hear they fell into the cliche. This film really peaked my interest and I was hoping to see it. Maybe I’ll wait till it hits the $1 Theatre to feed my curiosity.

  15. Wow for the first time Screen Rant give a 0 star, never seen that before.

    • We gave it 1 star, not 0. Although we HAVE given out 0 stars before. 8)


  16. Most of this type of “reality”/”just happened to catch it on my cell-phone” type of movie does not do much for me. This, however, looks like it deserves a watch on Netflix when it comes out!

  17. So Green Lantern is better than this?

    • I can confidently say that I’d rather watch Green Lantern over Apollo 18 – no question.

      • I didn’t want to see this, but curiosity got the best of the Mrs…..so I took her and turns out this review is spot on. I mean, unless you’re completely die hard obsessed with nasa conspiracy theories or something, you’ll forget all about this movie in a few days. I was disappointed even with low standards going in

  18. NASA felt compelled to make a statement that
    Apollo 18 is not a documentary and
    the film is a work of fiction.

    Which is as sad a commentary on
    movie audiences as it is on NASA.

  19. I have never been so bored watching a movie…..what were they thinking of? If you like to spend hours looking at the moon, this might be ok for you.

  20. “Ever since _Cannibal Holocaust_ debuted back in _1980_, found-footage films have been a major source of income for movie studios…”
    Fixed it for you.

    Anyways, given what I’ve heard about Apollo 18, it’s almost sounds like it originally was written as a comedy, but someone decided remove all the jokes.

    • Wasn’t implying that Blair Witch was the first – only that it set-off the enormous flood of current found footage films in production.

      Fun fact:

      Found footage films between 1980-1999 (7)
      Found footage films between 2000-2011 (50)

      That said, I would have much rather watched any version of Apollo 18 than the one shown ;)

  21. I saw this movie 4 times already.
    It should win an Oscar!

  22. Too bad ‘Bubba Ho Tep’ wasn’t produced in found footage.

  23. saw it,at least they did a good job with the moon footage. If the moon landings were faked it would look just like this.

  24. There was nothing wrong with this film.

    It was very well-acted, very well-produced, and scientifically smart with no logic holes. Aren’t those the things which sci-fi geekdom moans and complains about normally? Well, none of those problems existed here.

    So now people are complaining about dramatic build-up and story tensions falling flat when really they didn’t. There’s nothing wrong technically or artistically with this film.

    So what is everybody’s problem here *REALLY*?

    I think it might cut a little too close to home, perhaps. People have a psychological resistance to things which undercut their sense of reality. Watching pappa NASA fall flat, the DOD screw over their most loyal sons, the Russians get to the Moon. . . And alien life out there, all shot in a very realistic way which mimics all the news footage and ‘truth’ channel we grew up with. This film undercuts the mythology of American strength and dignity.

    I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist, but that sort of makes more sense to me than people getting so aggressively negative over a film with nothing wrong with it.

    • The one problem with this film is not enough aliens but it really flowed along well.
      But again nothing surprising really happened or nothing new happened,yeah I think the later of the two kinda summed it up.
      But watching it wasn’t a waste of my time,it’s hard to blame movie makers now a days,what has not been done before is yet to be seen.

      I noticed it says the same writer who wrote Priest,well one thing for sure he knows how to engage someone in his movies.
      But of all the “found footage movies” I have seen this one came last.
      2 out of 5.

    • There were plenty of logical holes. You weigh a third of your weight on the moon. I have no idea how you can sprint on the moon? You must know nothing about carbon based life forms and or how liquid Oxygen fuel is stored. There’s no way that Russian vessel would have made it after being exposed that long.

      Last the ‘spider’ things basically defy the laws of physics to attack the astronaut leaving the moon at the end. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. I don’t know how they were able to propel themselves towards the astronaut. Epic Fail.

      • Well they are aliens,no real explanation was given on their physicality to that of a human.
        That and the fact this was a found footage movie,the point is to leave us in suspense.
        Aliens big and small most times are written to be superior to humans,yeah they mostly beat the **** out of us.

    • Oh yes and Blair Witch was great also. Another film to rip off the movie fans. Was boring and gave nothing. Not even a rental would help this so called movie. Walk out 15 min into.

  25. I took my nephew to this the other day against my will. He had been looking forward to this for ages. I could not care less for a feature film (and this from a guy who was also dragged to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

    I was bored…the old man sitting to my right fell asleep..my nephew’s final assessment was that it was a “letdown”. Understatement of the century.

    • Disagree, the WORST film I ever saw was “Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” I could not wait until it finished, never done that before !!!!

  26. this has now become the worst movie I have ever seen. How did this ever get to the big screen? Really? Even the “things” on the moon were ridiculous.

  27. I don’t know how this movie gets away with quantum spiders being able to attach the astronaut without being jet propelled into him? ha ha. Also, how do we go from moon walking to moon sprinting. Super inaccurate. Epic Fail.

    • Possible explanation above,but I can’t explain the moon sprint,maybe it was a 70′s thing lol.

  28. We left this movie thinking “That was all?” The alien “Threat” was a tad weak.

    My other beef was the sacrifice of the crew by the DoD. Why were the 3 so expendable?

    Can someone answer this for me please: Were they being watched and recorded via the cameras or not?

  29. Hmmm…, although not in the low-budget category, was not Cloverfield the first “found-footage” film to cover aliens?

    • The first I have seen and far better than Apollo 18.