Tuesday, 6 September 2011

REVIEW: Apollo 18

The Dark Of The Moon. Because Transformers used...OK I'll go.

For all it's sins and opportunism, the found footage horror movie did one thing for the genre that it has to be eternally grateful for. It brought back the build. Thanks to their innate realism, the tone and scale of horror had to be scaled back, and these movies became about waiting for one ultimate, terrifying event as opposed to an over the top carnival of bloated grossness that most horror movies have become. They allowed tension to become part of the game again, and showed a modern audience brought up on Final Destination movies how excruciating being scared can truly be. And that's awesome. So while I actually think that many of them are kind of shitty (Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity are the only ones that deserve to be talked about in a serious way) I liked the feel of the model, if only because it meant horror became about scaring people again.

But one gets the sense that because it's such a specific model, about all that can be done with it has been done, and maybe now it needs to go away for a while. The tricks are becoming increasingly visible, hackneyed, dated and lame. Any illusion of realism is fast disappearing and that gripping 'this could happen to me' feeling got lost a long time ago. I thought Cloverfield was a piece of shit because its ridiculousness betrayed the format, it didn't work because CGI is CGI and it took you out of it. Apollo 18 suffers a similar fate. The ultimate enemy is so ridiculous that any sense of tension the film tried to build evaporates. And while the critical world at large took their frustration with the genre out on this film, calling it the most heinous assault on humanity since the last one, and I don't think that's entirely fair. In fact as far as premises go, I think this is the smartest and most interesting the genre has come up with outside of Blair Witch an Paranormal. The isolation and helplessness of the astronaut on the moon is sort of bread and butter for a horror movie.

I even liked the way the first 45 minutes or so were put together, and the performances of Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen were actually quite good. Creating a real sense of jeopardy and like I say, the no way out aspect is perfectly set up because we're on the fucking moon, and there is no way out. But then the bad guys have to show up, and well, maybe they should ave gone to a couple more focus groups or something because somebody needed to tell them that that? That was a godawful, movie destroying idea. Until they showed up I was well prepared to give the thing 6/10, and arguably the horror stuff done after we meet our bad guys is still executed pretty well. It's just... It's something too stupid to forgive.

So like everyone else, I have to give Apollo 18 an unfavorable review, even though I think its a great idea, and although the techniques are getting increasingly creaky, I was still involved. But this shit pushed the self-destruct button and then some. To be honest I don't think the found footage movie will ever stop. They're too profitable, and too cheap to make. But as a serious way to push the horror genre forward? Yeah I think we're done here. It was fun while it lasted.

Rating: 5/10

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