Wednesday, February 8, 2012

They Pull Down Your Pants and Spank You With Moon Rocks

I have to admit I'm a sucker for the "found footage" style of horror movie, where the entire film is apparently edited footage that was found somewhere after the result of "mysterious circumstances" and by watching the film you can pick up clues as to what actually happened. It's always something horrible--in "Blair Witch Project" it turned out the investigators were murdered by a witch; in "Paranormal Activity" it was demons. It never just turns out to be a hilarious road trip adventure that someone left in their closet to be discovered by their roommate. Something horrible always has to happen!

Last night's film was "Apollo 18", which supposedly is the "found footage" of a final and secret NASA mission to a far-flung and previously unexplored section of the moon in the mid-'70s. Why should this be a horrifying tale, you ask? Well, you don't remember hearing about how this mission turned out, do you? (Actually, I don't remember hearing about any moon landings except the one where they first landed on the moon, and the one where they got stuck a bit and needed Ed Harris to help get them back. Apparently, we've been to the moon a few times, but as they say, no one remembers the second person to fly across the Atlantic, either.)

Spoilers ahead! The landing seems pretty routine, until they discover that there is a Soviet lunar module near where they landed. Creepier still, the module is busted up a bit, with the red flag knocked down, and a dead cosmonaut nearby. (At first, it seemed implausable--with a surface area equal to that of the continental United States, what is the chance of the Americans landing anywhere near where the Soviets did? But then, the idea that NASA secretly knew about the Soviet landing and intentionally sent their men to the same coordinates would explain it) Ruling out the possibility that the Russians ran low on vodka and went berzerkers, the American astronauts are a bit creeped out.

Soon enough, their own flag gets knocked down, probably by some moon-hippie who doesn't respect what that flag stands for! Plus, their moon rover gets tipped over. It's clear that they're not alone up there. Worse, they can't seem to get liftoff to rejoin their comrade orbiting above, to get home.

As it turns out, the moon rocks are sentient beings, crab mosters as it were, and they soon do what they do best--get inside the space suits and burrow into the astronauts skins. Eeks! I suppose before the first real astronauts did land there, they had to consider the possibility of some horrible thing being down there (or of their space suits not working, after all, no one could really test anything in the moon's atmosphere since they were the first to go there). The film does a good job capturing their claustrophobia, and sense of trapped doom. As this is "found footage", we know that none of the astronauts are going to survive this caper.

Overall, the movie was very entertaining--perhaps because I'd read scathing reviews and had my expectations lowered. Sure, there were some logical questions--for instance, how was the footage found if no one went back to the moon afterwards? How did the sound of the moon monsters carry in the vacuum atmosphere of the moon? Why do the astronauts seem to have the same gravitational effect on the moon as they do on earth? But if you suspend belief a bit, you can get past that.

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