There were originally twenty Apollo missions planned by the team at NASA, with Apollo 11 the most famous, ferrying astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to step foot onto the moon with the famous “One small step for me, one giant leap for mankind.” Amazing stuff, but after Apollo 17 landed on the lunar surface in December, 1972, the rest of the program was cancelled “for budgetary reasons”.

But what if that’s not what happened at all?  What if Apollo 18 was a go, but was a top secret Department of Defense mission to install surveillance gear on the lunar surface so we could monitor the Russians?  And maybe investigate some strange happenings too.

That’s the premise behind the predictable, but still entertaining new film ‘Apollo 18’, a sci-fi horror film that’s a cross between the daft ‘The Happening’ and the quease-inducing ‘Cloverfield’, the former for storyline, the latter for its shakycam cinema “verité” approach to cinematography.

Shot in a satisfyingly claustrophobic style, ‘Apollo 18’, with its command module “Freedom” orbiting the moon and lunar module “Liberty” on the lunar surface, offers few scares with its oft-tedious “found footage” cinematic approach. It certainly made me puzzled as to why they have screenings in “high def digital theaters”.

This film should have been released 2-3 years ago, when the shaky verité style was more in vogue. Instead it just seems dated and a bit past its prime, even if it’s quite well assembled and has the verisimilitude of its central premise of “recently released footage” from the mid-70s. And those plot holes? Yeah, let’s leave those alone.

Finally, though, I dig NASA and have always been enthralled by the hubris — and amazing accomplishments — of the Apollo project. There’s little we humans have done as amazing as this sequence of trips to, around and finally on the moon. ‘Apollo 18’ is fun in that regard, it’s just too bad it’s not the great movie it could have been.