Apollo 18 is a major missed opportunity. What could have been a creepy, X-Files inspired science fiction story is nothing but a tedious, crash landing of a film.
Starting off with a quick intro to NASA and some home footage of the three astronauts at a BBQ that show us these guys are normal and fun-loving family men - it's reminiscent of the BBQ scene in the Right Stuff, (though it reminded me more of Al Adamson's opening footage of his kids on carnival rides in the Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher, its inclusion serving to merely pad out the movie).
With the cover story that NASA has lack of funding to send another mission to the moon, Apollo 18's actual covert objective is funded by a government black budget in order to establish monitoring equipment on the moon to spy on the Russians.
My first thought was, okay there are enough spy satellites that could do this during 1973 (it worked in Ice Station Zebra released in 1968), plus we had the SR-71 Blackbird that could easily run a few photo recon missions a day over Russia. Cheap and effective.
Regardless, they travel to the moon (which for thirty minutes you'd have more fun watching paint dry), with one astronaut in the Command Module and the two main protagonists in the Lunar Module to land on the dark side of the moon. Why they'd set up monitoring equipment on the moon facing away from the Earth that's supposed to be spying on Russia just didn't make any sense.
Here, they discover a crashed Soviet lunar lander with blood everywhere and a dead cosmonaut out on the moonscape with a rock protruding from his leg. A great idea and moment that was used effectively in the end in Countdown starring James Cann, but both the director and writer drop the ball here.
Communications to Earth and the Command Module are lost and the astronauts are on their own as they discover these moon rocks are actually alien life forms out to inhabit their bodies. The third act reminded me of an amalgamation of the Outer Limits episode with Robert Culp, Corpus Earthling and Roger Corman's, Night of the Blood Beast.
There are a few surprises and scares on the moon and the art direction is excellent, but we've seen those scares before. You'd have more fun testing your mortality on a ride that sounds past its prime in one of those urine soaked, traveling carnival fun houses.
Another thing is, how did these guys have 27 cameras or so to document the mission from every angle? Payload weight is a major factor with space craft and at the most they would have had only two.
What could have been a great film just doesn't come close. On the dark side of the moon they could have found the remnants of an alien civilization as Robert Hoagland describes in his books, a Sargasso Sea of alien space craft (Corman's Galaxy of Terror comes to mind) or even a base that the Germans established during world War II with their rocket program as in Heinlien's, Rocketship Gallieo or Clive Cussler's book Cyclops that had a group of American scientists living on the moon in secret conducting experiments. It's not even in the same ballpark as these greats.
Overall, I'd save my money on this one and wait for a free rental at the local library.
Expected rating: 6 out of 10
Apollo 18 is in US and UK cinemas now