“Chernobyl Diaries” Review

jason May 31, 2012 1
“Chernobyl Diaries” Review

Director: Bradley Parker

Writers: Shane Van DykeCarey Van DykeOren Peli

Stars: Jesse McCartneyJonathan SadowskiOlivia Dudley

I feel like “Chernobyl Diaries” is a step in the right direction for modern horror movies. It’s not so overly-produced that I’m taken out of the suspense and it’s not a full-blown found-footage film. It looks like a found-footage film, as the angles were wide, the camera was handheld, it was filmed on location, and the on-set lighting was sparse. There wasn’t a cameraman filming the events though and that erased the tedious dialogue that sounds like “people have to know what happened” or “I’m passionate about photography so I’m just going to film everything from now on.”

“Chernobyl Diaries” is about an “extreme tourism” trip to the ghost town of Pripyat. Pripyat was a city a few miles away from the Chernobyl meltdown and had to be immediately evacuated. It is now a totally abandoned with clothes left on hangers, silverware left in drawers, and ominously placed toys left on the floor. As a guy who has done some urban exploring in his life, it does sound neat.

Among the people on this excursion is a recently-dumped photographer named Amanda (Devin Kelley), a fairly pleasant Natalie (Olivia Dudley) and her boyfriend (and potential fiancee) Chris (Jesse McCartney), his grumpy and bilingual brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), a Swedish couple just there to add to the body count (Ingrid Bolso Berdal and Nathan Phillips), and a grizzled soldier-turned-tour-guide named Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko). The details are valuable for about thirty minutes, because once the horror starts, none of that matters.

After a fairly eventful tour, they find out their van is no longer operational. They are now stranded at Pripyat with about a thirteen mile hike back to civilization. Rabid dogs restrict them from walking back at night, and poor cell service stops them from calling for help. After a few noises in the woods, a missing Uri, and an injured Chris, the crew discovers that they are not alone.

I walked into the “Chernobyl Diaries” thinking it was a found-footage film and that there were ghosts involved – I was wrong on both assumptions, but I can’t really say anything surprised me. They took a rehashed formula and added some inventive ideas. I give it credit for the non-found-footage-found-footage look, the use of actual locations, and pretty solid performances, but it was the “Chernobyl Diaries” story where the compass started to point south (I’m trying out new metaphors).

I went to this movie with fellow everyonequestion.com participant Nate, and he summed up the problem with “Chernobyl Diaries” in one sentence: “That movie was a little too runny.” That’s exactly right. The last half of this movie is people running either away or toward something. They never stop to discover something about themselves or the town of Pripyat – they just run. They run from one room with a scary thing to a different room with a scary thing. The majority of the characters’ deaths are not even on screen. They’re usually dragged away from the camera or just go missing when the remaining characters aren’t looking. A couple of deaths like this are creepy, but all of them? That’s a lot to tolerate. 

SPOILERS ABOUT THE THINGS THAT KILL YOU:

The citizens of Pripyat were turned into radiated mutants and the Russian government has been keeping them locked up in a facility somewhere in Russia. There apparently was a breakout, and the mutant residents went back to their homes. They had to live underground because they may or may not be sensitive to sunlight (I’m guessing – they only seem to come out at night). They also seem to be semi-organized, as they set up decoys to grab certain characters. They also breed, which is pretty creepy in its own right.

While the government is trying to round them back up, they pick up the lone survivor, Amanda. If zombie movies have taught us anything, it’s don’t trust the government at the end of the movie.

One Comment »

  1. Jon October 19, 2012 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Very dull. It wasn’t found footage technically but everything about it was like a found footage movie. The same running around and screaming with incomprehensible camera work and everyone dies in the end. No characters, no story of consequence, nothing to say, and not scary in the least.

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