Sci-Fi Horror Thriller Will Make You Terrified Of Outer Space

By Robert Scucci | Published

apollo 18

What do you get when you cross found-footage horror motifs with a sinister alien plot on the Moon? The answer is 2011’s Apollo 18, which brings us to our neighboring cratered satellite but with extraterrestrial implications. Though Apollo 18 quite literally fails to stick the landing, it’s a fascinating blend of historical fiction and slice-of-life horror that is as ambitious as it is ill-fated.

The Strange Mission Of Apollo 18

apollo 18

The premise to Apollo 18 suggests that there was an undocumented lunar mission that followed Apollo 17, the last documented time humans set foot on the Moon. Set in 1974, we’re introduced to Lunar Module Pilot Captain Ben Anderson (Warren Christie) and Commander Nate Walker (Lloyd Owen), who have to deliver a classified payload to the Moon for the Department of Defense. Though they successfully land on the Moon, they suspect that something’s amiss after collecting a couple of rock samples that don’t seem quite right.

Things Are Not As They Seem

apollo 18

Initially believing that they were supposed to set up a missile detector as a safe measure against the USSR, Anderson begins to suspect that there’s more to the Apollo 18 mission than the Department of Defense is letting on. As Anderson becomes more acclimated to his surroundings, he learns that the Soviets had a failed mission of their own, which becomes evident when he stumbles upon a crashed and abandoned LK lander. Though it’s clear that some sort of violent altercation occurred before their arrival, there’s no way to confirm whether the lander experienced a violent crash or was attacked by an unknown life form

The Moon Plus Blair Witch

apollo 18

Apollo 18 wastes no time letting the viewer know that Anderson and Walker aren’t alone on the Moon, as the space rocks they collected grow spider-like legs and carry an extraterrestrial infection that would prove dangerous if brought back to Earth. Not only do Anderson and Walker hear mysterious knocking on their vessel throughout the night, they encounter non-human tracks in the lunar soil beneath them. Walker becomes increasingly psychotic after the infection takes hold of him, and Anderson has to grapple with the questionable functionality of his communication devices that are hindering his ability to communicate with mission control.

It Made Money But Critics Hated It

Despite the fact that Apollo 18 was a commercial success upon its release, it was not well-received by critics. Considered to be a Paranormal Activity ripoff, Apollo 18 garnered a 24 percent critical score against a 23 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Among the rotten reviews, critics and audiences alike praise the film’s ambitious premise and strong characters, but in the same breath suggest that it’s a fun thought experiment that shouldn’t have gotten a full feature-length film treatment.

But perhaps the most glaring issue that Apollo 18 has to overcome is the availability of four alternate endings on its DVD release. If you truly want to suspend disbelief and enjoy a found-footage film, you need to operate under the assumption that the events unfolding on-screen actually happened. In other words, its difficult to enjoy the “official” account of what actually happened to Anderson and Walker if they’re acting out multiple fatal scenarios for the world to see in a home viewing context.

Where You Can Watch It

For its willingness to be The Blair Witch Project in Space, Apollo 18 is an interesting viewing experience that is a lot of fun to watch unfold. You can stream the title on Hulu, Peacock, Tubi, and Pluto TV, or watch on-demand through Google Play or YouTube (free with ads) if you’re looking for a healthy amount of jump-scares found within an inherently ridiculous premise.