But that's besides the point. As you can tell by the title of this post, tonight we sat down to watch one of my growing pile of unseen films (anyone else find it irresistibly tempting to buy films just because?).
I'd bought Apollo 18 on the back of watching Moon, and it follows in the footsteps of my fascination of space seen in Apollo 13. While Apollo 18 is similar to both films in the isolation of the protagonists, it is billed as being Blair Witch in space - not least because of the "found footage" appearance.
Of late, the found footage sub genre has become very popular, from the utterly terrifying Paranormal Activity to giant monster invasions seen in Cloverfield. This is partly because these films are very cheap to produce, but also because they tend to be well received by the audience (if not necessarily critics).
|In space no-one can hear you scream... but just in case, cover your ears|
I must be honest, it does take 20 minutes to get going (during which my girlfriend fell asleep), but once the astronauts start to realise things are amiss it holds the attention very well. Aside from the obviously corny positioning of the cameras (including a predictable motion sensing camera), the whole setup of the moon landscape is almost picture perfect and it is clear that director Gonzalo López-Gallego carefully studied previous Apollo missions to add to the enthralling sense of realism.
The skilled camera work doesn't mean that the main actors (Warren Christie & Lloyd Owen) had nothing to do. Anyone who can stay in character while surrounded by such a barren environment for over an hour deserves their plaudits. Their acting of clear excitement and joy for doing a monumentous task for their country (and Earth) is perfectly offset against the sheer terror of the images that flash on screen in front of the audience. Once the characters realise the predicament that the audience is at that point fully aware of, it is difficult to tear yourself away from fully empathising with them.
While Moon is a much better film as an isolated sci-fi/horror set in space, and Apollo 13 is far superior at showing contemporary astronauts going into space, Apollo 18 finds its own niche. At only just over 80 minutes long, Apollo 18 is a relatively short film by today's goliath standards which makes it perfect for a quick shock.
Just remember to bring the cushions - on Earth, everyone can hear your scream.