Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Apollo 18 – Lunar Crabs, Jumping Rocks & Handheld Cameras

Apollo 17 was the 11th and final manned mission in the Apollo Space Program. The year was 1972, the last time man landed on the moon. Or was it really?

Footages have been found to negate this, suggesting there was a 12th mission – Apollo 18. On board were astronauts Ben, John and Nate (Warren Christie, Ryan Robbins, Lloyd Owen respectively) tasked to set up cameras on the moon and retrieve lunar samples. On December 25th, 1975, this secret mission landed on the moon. During a cursory moonwalk, Nate inadvertently finds a Russian spaceship, operational yet curiously abandoned. Blood stains are all over the shuttle. When he follows “something” into the tenebrous crater, he discovers a dead cosmonaut and a briskly crawling creature. The next few days has Nate stricken with an illness that burrows through the skin. His eyes turn bloodshot and his mentation volatile. But something else is troubling them out there. Creepy noises are heard while they sleep. The equipment set up outside are upturned, causing them to intermittently lose communication from Earth. Suddenly, the moon becomes a hostile place. Will the astronauts make it back home?

Employing the craft that made “Paranormal Activity” a runaway hit, i.e. lots of cameras (handheld and otherwise), Apollo 18 tries the same ruse to convey an atmosphere of isolation and – well – doom! In some way, they've succeeded creating such atmosphere. After all, it isn't an easy task to sustain your viewers' attention when 95% of the time, there are just two characters interacting on screen. The situation on hand has to be riveting enough to buoy up interest.

What I didn’t find amusing was their treatment of the antagonists. Here, there are crab-like creatures that, though small, seem smarter than humans; there’s a jumping rock as well! Yes, a rock that hops and somehow changes form. There's a scene where John scoops out this organism lodged in Nate’s abdomen. You’d see the shape of the creature, probably measuring 4 by 5 inches wide, yet when he extracts it out with a forceps, it jumps on the floor and it looks like a stone barely 2 inches big! I have to somehow appease myself that my fears were well placed because this “stone” will eventually reshape itself into hideous monsters! Oh dear!

To be honest, despite the “Cold War” climate of the mid-70’s, it was hard to believe they needed to keep this mission a secret. This idea is less than expedient. But then, without it, they’d be left with an even thinner plot. Was it a matter of national security to plant flags and motion detection cameras on the surface of the moon? The use of “national security” as a way out to avoid logical explanations is getting too flimsy and lazy. I’d rather buy another pair of shoes than hear that excuse again! Ho-hum! And how can the Russians launch a spaceship without getting detected? And were cameras really that prevalent in 1975? Then I’m reminded that this is science fiction and horror rolled into one. Maybe they have cinematic license for such farfetched ideas. It’s as believable as believing that Lunar Rovers can be easily turned over, like they’re mere toys made of paper mache!


The voyeuristic approach in this growing genre called "Found Footage Films" (a documentary faux film that started in 1980's with "Cannibal Holocaust") isn't as potent here as they were in other films of such nature ("The Last Broadcast", "Blair Witch Project", the Spanish film "Rec" and its US-version "Quarantine", "The Last Exorcism", "Paranormal Activity" and its prequels; even "Cloverfield"). But it can be an interesting watch on a lazy weekend when there's nothing else worth doing.

On point of performance, director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s actors were more than decent! You’d have to commend their earnest portrayals. When Lloyd Owen, playing the afflicted astronaut Nate, suddenly wakes up and growls “Don’t ever touch me again!” I was petrified. Maybe he was pissed off because he got the peas instead of the carrots from their space kitchen? Someone give the guy his carrot!

Moon creature embeds itself in human viscera.

Nate feels devilish. "Leave me," he instructs his friend.

Warren Christie plays Capt. Benjamin Anderson in "Apollo 18". He hails from Northern Ireland, but graduated from Ontario, Canada. His resume reveals a long list of TV work, the most recent is "Alphas". He just completed another film - McG's "This Means War" with Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon.

Ryan Robbins was in several TV series as well like "Sanctuary", "Caprica", "Battlestar Galactica", "The Guard", etc. He was with Adrien Brody in "Wrecked". He next topbills Tracy D. Smith's "Everything and Everyone".

Luke Owen plays Nate Walker who gets inflicted with lunar crabs! He was in "Miss Potter" and in several TV series.

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