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Movie Review

One very small step to horror

By Joel Brown
Globe Correspondent / September 3, 2011

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“Apollo 18’’ must have been a simple pitch: “The Blair Witch Project’’ on the moon.

There are echoes of “Apollo 13’’ and “Alien,’’ too. This is a low-budget thriller built on creative spare parts. Nothing wrong with that, but “Apollo 18’’ contains nothing original or over-the-top enough to make it a real scream fest. For most horror fans it will be kind of a snooze.

The movie claims to consist of found footage from the Apollo 18 moon mission in the 1970s. History says that one was canceled for budget reasons. According to the movie, it went ahead in secret.

Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen play NASA astronauts who land on the lunar surface only to find a damaged Soviet spacecraft and some nonhuman tracks they can’t identify. Maybe they haven’t been told the truth about their mission? We watch them grow increasingly tense as the half-glimpsed bad-things-scuttling-around-out-there disrupt their communications with Earth and endanger their flight home. . .

The found footage is supposed to be a mix of vintage video and movie stock from NASA cameras. But the conceit is carried out far less rigorously than in “Blair Witch.’’ There are too many convenient angles.

The actors do their best to portray space heroes in extremis. But the script is filled with rote horror-movie tropes, including the Prank Scare, the Corpse That Goes Boo!, and the Very Bad Idea (“I’m going to go look. . .’’).

We never get a clear sight of the baddies either, which is a budget-saving device that worked for “Blair Witch’’ but here left me yearning for the chest-buster of “Alien.’’

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@gmail.com.

APOLLO 18

Directed by: Gonzalo López-Gallego

Written by: Brian Miller

Starring: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 88 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (language, minor gore, a few kinda sorta scary moments)

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