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Still shot from the movie: Apollo 18.

Apollo 18

Alleging to include actual footage shot by astronauts during a secret lunar space landing, Apollo 18 exposes the dark secrets that caused the cancelation of future trips to the moon in this documentary-style horror film.

Overall Grade: C-
Violence: C
Sexual Content: A-
Language: D+
Drugs/Alcohol: B+
Release Date: 02 Sep 2011
Run Time: 85
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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In-Depth Review

Conspiracy theories should make audiences a little unsettled. Heroic sacrifices should leave people feeling inspired. Historic narratives should enlighten viewers. But unfortunately a lot of things that should have happened in Apollo 18 didn’t.

Rather moviegoers get nearly 90 minutes of grainy, handheld camera footage spliced together in a documentary-style sci-fi thriller. And even though filmmakers market the snippets as recently uncovered information, which NASA denies, the clips quickly become as tiresome as watching your neighbors’ home videos of their metal detecting expeditions.

During a 1974 beer-guzzling backyard barbecue, a trio of experienced astronauts gets a secure call informing them about a secret mission to the moon. Funded by the US Department of Defense, the classified flight will have Ben Anderson (Warren Christie) and Captain Walker (Lloyd Owen) set up a series of spy cameras on the moon’s surface while John Grey maintains a lunar orbit until they are ready for pick up.

All too soon we know something is about to go wrong. Why else would this footage have been kept from public knowledge for decades? Inanimate objects move on their own. Power fluxes cause the capsule’s lights to dim and flicker. The cameras go fuzzy and stall. Tempers flare. And the soundtrack becomes increasingly intense with the sound of a racing heartbeat.

However, the build up is all for not. There are no unexpected, jump-in-your-seat moments or even mildly terrifying encounters. Instead audiences who can endure the shaky camera work are left to ponder the dubious reality of this "found footage".

Considering the weight restrictions a regular airline puts on their passengers’ luggage, it seems implausible that NASA would send up enough film for astronauts to document their every movement. Yet canister upon canister of unexposed film and blank tapes are readily available for the space travelers to pop into the cameras and handheld video recorders.

But even if the Apollo 18 mission was loaded with enough recording equipment to shoot an entire Hollywood blockbuster, how did it get back to Earth? I hate to give away the ending but let me just say there is a humongous plot hole that even diehard conspiracy theorists will have a hard time explaining—unless of course the 1970s drive-thru film developer Fotomat had intergalactic franchises and incredible delivery service.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Violence: Mild moments of peril and suspense exist for the astronauts during their mission when they begin to hear strange sounds and sense someone is watching them. Characters lie and are lied to. Men stumble upon a corpse. A character is attacked by an unknown creature and suffers a bloody injury and infection. Characters struggle with and yell at one another. A man performs a surgical procedure with some blood shown. A character begins to act dangerously because of sickness.

Sexual Content: A character talks about the painful effects of jalapeno juice on his groin area.

Language: The script contains frequent swearing, scatological slang, and terms of Deity, along with a strong sexual expletive and some crude sexual name-calling.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters drink beer at a home party.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

How do astronauts deal with limited space and feeling of isolation? Why is communication with the space station and the orbiting rocket so important? How does Ben feel when he believes they are being abandoned? Why does he think of his family?

What accounts for the popularity of this type of storytelling that involves documentary-style footage? Why are conspiracy theories often associated with the space or other government programs?

How do inaccuracies or plot holes distract from a film?

Video alternatives

Astronauts are forced to revamp their flight plan after an explosion causes extensive damage to their ship during the Apollo 13 Moon Mission. Made up of five DVDs, The IMAX Space Collection covers numerous space explorations with breath-taking cinematography. The documentary When We Left Earth - the NASA Missions introduces archival footage and interviews with some of the people involved with these historic events.

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: Apollo 18

Release Date: 27 December 2011

Apollo 18 releases to home video with the following bonus extras:

- Audio commentary with director Gonzalo López-Gallego and editor Patrick Lussier

- Deleted and alternate scenes

- Alternate ending

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About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

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