In a world where found footage films have finally worn out their grace period of originality and creativity, we now find ourselves repeating the same strange errors over and over again. The earliest found footage films, shot either in documentary or casual hand-camera style, were conducive to effective horror films, in an attempt to make the viewer feel more in touch with the situation. It might lead some of the more gullible audience to ponder whether the film was actually staged, or simply found. Still, the grace period I alluded to of providing mediocre products that people enjoy because of the new medium has worn off.
The most famous found footage film was, of course, The Blair Witch Project (I am willing to be corrected by actual film studies majors on that one). Since then, the two most mainstream I can think of were Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity, both of which were praised for their novelty (I enjoyed Cloverfield) but would likely have been considered unspectacular had they been produced in standard format. Now, people are accustomed and adjusted to found footage. We expect the films to be able to stand on their own merit, and not lean on the audience loving the feeling of FF. If it is to be acknowledged as a genre that is here to stay, rather than just a fad, some quality products need to be produced.
Now, I bet you all think that lead in suggests I’m going to go about and bash Apollo 18. I sort of sent the wrong signals there. Seeing his film just unavoidably brought me back to horrible FF experiences such as Quarantine and Atrocious (aptly named.) But Apollo 18 wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. The premise was ludicrous, the production value nonexistent, but they managed to make a marketable and effective product out of it, which deserves acknowledgement and respect.
The premise is that the United States lack of interest on lunar voyages over the past few years was a result of some top-secret mission that ended in a horrific accident. Sounds fun, eh? That is the kind of attitude you’re going to have to have to enjoy it. Just relax, let it be a little silly, and enjoy the tension. Don’t pretend like you didn’t have to absorb a lot of bullshit to get into the Star War or Avatar universe. Realism stops when you leave planet earth for any film (Don’t tell Clooney or Bullock).
The best part of the execution of this film was the pacing. It isn’t an unrelenting series of up and downs a la Insidious 2 or The Grudge, but rather a very tempered, consistent eeriness with some moments of elevated pulse (See: Sphere, Session 9). That is a welcome break. The acting is solid but unspectacular. To be honest, this was one of those performances where the presence of an A-lister would have proved more a distraction than a benefit.
My usual recommendation for the potential viewer: this film is not for everyone. It’s free on Netflix, so give it a shot, but you’ll have to be patient. It is not for the instant gratification crowd. Not a party movie, this is better viewed by yourself or in a small group. Don’t shoot the messenger. Oh and cheers, we’re another week closer to Halloween.