There is a new style that has become “hip and edgy” in recent years, the found-footage narrative film. It began in the 90’s with the independent film, The Blair Witch Project, and was more recently implemented in mainstream films, Cloverfield, The Last Exorcism and the Paranormal Activity franchises.
A found-footage narrative is when a film is shot and structured like raw, first-hand footage of an event, usually part of a disaster or a government cover-up. The first two examples structure film as footage taken from a regular camcorder, while Paranormal Activity is structured as security footage.
In the case of this week’s subject, Apollo 18, it takes the found-footage concept a little further by setting in the Cold War era, presumably in the 1970’s or 1980’s, a time when camcorders weren’t as common as they are today.
Now many of you are probably wondering about the title. We all know about the historic Apollo 11 mission where Neil Armstrong took his “giant leap for mankind.” We also are well aware of the close call with disaster that would later be turned into the 1995 film Apollo 13. In the early 1970s, NASA pulled the plug on Apollo missions 18 and 19 in order to cut cost, the last mission to the moon being the Apollo 17 mission.
The premise, and story, of this film is that there was a heavily classified Apollo 18 mission that was covered up by the government, the incident also explaining the reason why there haven’t been any more lunar missions. That is the best way to explain the story without giving anything away, for this is a spoiler-heavy film.
What sets this film apart from the other found-footage films is the clever way they made the footage look like it was shot on the cameras of old. It’s also unique because the perspective is not limited to the camcorders used by the astronauts, but also expanded by realistically recreated footage that would’ve been shot by the many stationary cameras mounted to the lunar modules and lunar rover, as well as the technology they set up as part of their mission.
It’s because of this that the film doesn’t suffer from what Roger Ebert refers to as the “Cloverfield queasy cam.” All of the shots are stationary and allow you to try to analyze the scene, to see if you can catch something. This film also takes a page from the book of the conspiracy theorist, occasionally zooming in on the footage and highlighting a specific area, similar to the many lunar conspiracy specials that would air on television.
The sets were made very realistically, faithfully recreating the lunar surface and the lunar modules. This is helped by the fact that actual NASA footage is incorporated into the film.
This is film is best compared to a guerilla-style documentary, the kind usually made by underground group such as WikiLeaks. This is cemented by a reference to an underground website called lunartruth.com, a site that, at the time of this writing, is currently unavailable, but actually pops up when typed into Google.
Overall, this film is a very unique experience as it is one part conspiracy film, one part horror film. This film get a 4/5 for a well-crafted experience that almost makes you believe that the story is real.