"There's a reason we've never gone back to the moon."
Officially, the U.S. manned lunar missions ended with Apollo 17, but newly discovered (2011) classified film footage edited for you the moviegoer—I hope your clearance is up to date—details a fateful Apollo 18 journey of Christmas, 1974. While John Grey our sometimes narrator remains in the Freedom orbiter above the moon, Nathan Walker the mission commander with Benjamin Anderson the lunar lander (Liberty) pilot touch down on its forbidding surface for the “first step on the South Pole.” Except somebody else has beat them to it (“The Russians have landed on the South Pole.”) They discover his tracks (“Let's see where they lead.”) This does not look good.
Two days of mission
Two days of surface mission allow them to collect sample rocks. One of them keeps playing a tape from home of sounds of his kid opening his presents, so we're unlikely to forget the holiday. In fact a piano rendition of “We Three Kings” plays at the end as credits roll keeping the Xmas continuity, with the three astronauts being the high status persons (“heroes”) as were the Wise Men of old, stargazers.
According to an elaborate myth, Santa keeps meticulous records of who's been naughty and nice throughout the year. If you're sure you're on the nice list, this is but a mild curiosity, but if you suspect you're eligible for the naughty one, it can be a big concern how complete that record is. In “Apollo 18” there are cameras everywhere beaming back info to the Dept. of Defense (DoD). They do in fact see the astronauts while they are sleeping, and the DoD knows when they're awake. It's part of being an astronaut on a mission.
While the children back home are snug in their beds with supposed elves lurking about, we see the lunarnauts settled into their hammocks for the "night", with something lurking about them too, and it ain't elves. You know how the bad boys and girls get a lump of coal in their stocking? Here our lunarnauts end up with a sample rock (roughly the size of a lump of coal) in their spacesuits. Only these lumps are more like spuds which if left alone will sprout tendrils. Then they'll scamper about like lively elves or resume their inert state again. This is not the kind of Christmas you want to have.
I couldn't imagine what these all-American good guy astronauts, family men all, could have done to deserve this fate. Then it occurred to me to check my notes, and sure enough, I'd written down: “cursing, profanity.” Under stress they violated one of the Ten Commandments: (Exodus 20:7) “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” That'll do it.
“Apollo 18” was written by Brian Miller (screenplay) & Cory Goodman, and was directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego. It starred Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen.
A commendable job was done on the sound. One might think there to be no sound in space or on the airless moon, but it's like a city folk moving to the country: “what … a lifelong city dweller thought of as silence, meaning the only sounds were those of nature: a bird calling, pine needles rustling, the sighing of wind through grass” (Brandon 345). On the moon you still get radio chatter, moving-around sounds, and background static. Only these sounds took on a sinister quality. “There still was no sound but that country silence, but she could hear that now. The sounds of the woods were like something small or invisible creeping up on her from all sides. Without her realizing what caused it, the small sounds made her edgy” (Brandon 348). That is how the sound in “Apollo 18” makes us feel, “sounds like crossover from another frequency.”
The visual dimension does nothing to put us at ease. Shots jump around and are taken from crazy angles. It wasn't as bad as in “The Blair Witch Project”—that one made me nauseous—but it was bad enough.
I thought the science was pretty good, and I have a scientific education. The hardware looked just like what I'd examined at the Space Museum on the Apollo Program when I'd visited Florida. I'm a ham radio operator. When Commander Walker went EVA to “repair the S band antenna on the rover,” it really was an S band antenna that needed fixing. I'm not saying that everything was perfectly credible, but enough was that I was willing to pass off any inconsistency to writer's license as I worried more about those crablike spidery things.
This would make a good holiday movie for someone who is fed up with the saccharine fare of the North Pole and would rather see something from the South Pole. Or it would be a good movie for anyone who likes creepy sci-fi flicks.
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Scripture taken from the King James Version, 1611. Software.
Brandon, Jay. Defiance County. New York: Pocket Books, 1996. Print.
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Movie Mood: Scary Movie
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: A few glitches, but mostly complete.
Worst Part of this Film: Ending