Over the years, one common feature on the internet and anywhere that movies are discussed is what each number means on a scale of one to ten. Ten is generally a truly timeless classic, a movie that you could watch again and again over the years and love just as much every time you watch it. One is a little more ambiguous. Is it a fetid mess that appalls your very senses, a terribly made Z-grade movie, or some mixture of the two?
A 1 out of 10 rating is not something to be given lightly, any more than a 10 out of 10 is. To look at it, then, I’d like to demonstrate with a film that I believe is a 1 out of 10 movie that is currently in theatres.
Apollo 18 is a movie of the “found footage” variety- the ones made to look like you’re just publishing somebody’s home videos. This is already going to hurt the score, because after the first few, I find this to a fairly uninspired method of filming that has little to add, relies way too much on suspension of disbelief, and is not entertaining to watch. Is it wrong to base a score on the genre of film? I think it can be right. After all, every review is subjective, and somebody who believes mindless popcorn flicks are poorly written and deserving of a lesser score than other genres or somebody who hates all “chick flicks” is likely to base their score on the same thing. The trick is being very clear about it, and being consistent.
So, here’s for consistency: I didn’t like the prototype (that would be Blair Witch Project when it comes to most audiences) and I have no interest in the genre. If I wanted to watch somebody’s home videos shot without a tripod, I’d do that.
But wait, there’s more! Apollo 18 is designed to take the idea of “found footage” into space. In most genres, this adds for cheese value even if done poorly, and guarantees a minimum of 3/10. But let’s look at this, shall we? Found footage is based off looking like it came from real cameras. Have you ever seen footage from the cameras on the moon? It is boring. Always. Unless you’re caught up in the giant leap for mankind, these videos are not stimulating in the slightest. They’re valuable in a documentary with a voice over or in short bursts, but watching over an hour of this footage is liable to make even the most patient man start lighting himself afire to see how entertaining it is. It only took about fifteen minutes for me to realize that unless they drastically abandoned the found footage premise early on, this film was not going to be a fun time for me, or the other two people in the theatre.
That’s something that 1/10 movies can vary on: Some of them are very consistent, sticking with their poor choices and going along with them. Some of them switch it up, making different poor decisions every couple of scenes. My previous 1/10 review, Night Shadow, fell in the latter category. Apollo 18, on the other hand, stuck to its guns and shot blanks all afternoon.
How about the acting? Here is where accounts differ. Some reviewers are of the opinion that bad acting is the worst kind of acting, be it over- or under-acting, and that a film deserves to be hurt worst by the type of acting seen in Troll 3: The Crawlers, even if it unintentionally makes you laugh out loud. I’m not necessarily of that school of thought. If the film expects to be a 5/10 or higher, sure, bad acting hurts it. But if it’s already a bad or below average film, I feel bad acting can make it more entertaining. Once you’ve established that production values aren’t going to help the film, anything really goes when it comes to making it worth your time.
In Apollo 18, we have three actors that make up the majority of what you’re watching. None of these do a terrible job, but none of them really draw you in and make you love the film either. What might even be particularly good performances based on the directing they were given doesn’t make the film any more enjoyable, because the audience is often confused at what sort of genre direction the events on screen are going in. If we don’t know if he’s supposed to act possessed or not, we can’t tell if he’s doing a good job of it. Ultimately, a bad actor that made me laugh would have been preferable to the passable or even potentially above average acting that got no emotional reaction out of me.
Now the writing itself needs a look, because without understanding my feelings about that, the above line can be taken out of context to look cold and heartless. As fans of the found footage genre have said, you already know everybody is going to die, because that’s the entire premise of the genre. Okay, so that little bit of drama’s gone. It doesn’t really matter because everything bad that happens to the protagonists (I would hesitate to consider calling them “heroes”, for reasons I’ll go into later) is contrived, obvious, and cliché. I was able to time, if not to the exact second, then to the correct minute every time that something bad was going to happen to the two astronauts and, if not the exact event, what would result from it.
That’s the thing about poor writing and good execution: If I was resigned to your death thirty minutes ago, you crying and trying to prevent it now isn’t going to make me feel sorry for you, it isn’t going to make me wish you were alive. It feels like you’re insulting my intelligence and intentionally prolonging my agony.
How this relates to our discussion, is that a screenplay with no comedic value (I don’t think a single joke in this film made me crack a smile) is filled with foregone conclusions and cliches, there is no suspense, no tension and no entertainment value. In this case, it is up to the visuals and the score, be they action-packed, creepy, or otherwise able to draw you in, to redeem the film. Bad acting can make it funny, but we already addressed that. We also addressed the utter lack of interesting visuals and, this being found footage, there’s no score. When there is, the breathing sound that is not explained anywhere in the film is out of place and obviously a last ditch effort to get a fear reaction out of the audience.
That’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? A reaction from the audience. A horror movie where the movie isn’t scared is not a good movie, whatever else goes into it. An action or exploitation movie that doesn’t get your blood pumping has no purpose. A comedy movie where you don’t laugh is just Family Guy on the big screen.
A movie is made to entertain you, or possibly educate you. When you’re watching a movie, you’re supposed to care either about what is happening, what is going to happen, or how it impacts the characters. When watching the movie feels like watching a mathematical equation scroll across the screen (I actually would have found that more entertaining than Apollo 18), then not only is the movie doing something wrong, but it deserves no higher than a 1 out of 10 score. If you want to leave the theatre 30 minutes in but stick with it, only to not receive even a few moments’ worth of entertainment value, that, to me, is what a 1 out of 10 movie is all about.
- Apollo 18 (2011) (cinemaroll.com)