Chernobyl Diaries is a standard horror movie that tries to sell itself as something new by setting the horror in Pripyat. That’s the city that housed the workers of Chernobyl and when the disaster happened the whole place was abandoned, left with a lot of empty spaces and an unhealthy amount of radiation.
Set in the here and now, Chernobyl Diaries is all about a group of folk who decide to go on an extreme tour to Pripyat. They have a guide named Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) who has his own van and a Geiger counter so what could possibly go wrong? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. The city turns out to not be as abandoned as everyone thought and when the group can’t leave Pripyat due to some car trouble – that old horror genre favourite – they start to encounter things in the night that could cause them some problems, to put it mildly.
With the cast of young adults on display, a selection of standard jump scares and premise focused on unknown terrors in the dark and strange surrounding environment, Chernobyl Diaries is most certainly nothing new for horror fans. The only difference is the environment itself, though that does make the whole movie a bit more interesting than it might otherwise have been, but even that can only do so much.
Writers Oren Peli and Carey and Shane Van Dyke (the Van Dyke family have a lot to answer for but that’s a rant for another time and place) seem to set everything up nicely and then stop caring. It’s as if they think the unique setting is enough and that people will be so impressed that they won’t find all of the events onscreen ridiculous and/or boring. Perhaps this is best exemplified in the one scene that has already been singled out by so many reviewers who hated the film – a scene in which two people from the group go missing, leaving nothing but debris and a mobile phone. But it’s all okay, no need to wonder about what happened, because the mobile phone was recording the two people having a conversation when things went horribly wrong. Yes, the mobile phone was being used by someone to record their conversation in the middle of the night for no reason other than to allow viewers to be given another cheap, jump scare. And the award for the worst scene of 2012 goes to . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . well, if there is a scene more pathetic and laughable and lazy than this one in any film released in cinemas before December 31st 2012 then I’ll buy a big hat just to eat it.
The cast aren’t too bad. Nathan Phillips looks radically different from the last time I saw him having a horrible holiday (in Wolf Creek) but he’s still a likeable presence. Jesse McCartney and Jonathan Sadowski play the two brothers representing the nucleus of the group and they’re okay though hard to really care for. Olivia Dudley is a bit irritating at times (due to the material more than her performance, poor lass) and Ingrid Bolso Berdal doesn’t make much of an impression but Devin Kelley makes the most of her role and is someone that you can at least root for as things get worse and worse. Dimitri Diatchenko doesn’t exactly have a complex character but he’s good in his role and it’s nice to see that his character, Uri, is a genuinely nice guy just trying to make money for himself with some extreme tours that he is normally well prepared for.
Chernobyl Diaries is a fun horror movie with some good moments here and there. It starts with promise but then mistake after mistake starts to drain goodwill from the viewer and by the time the end credits roll it’s hard to remember any of the preceding moments that made a good impression.
Chernobyl Diaries radiates onto DVD and Bluray on Monday 22nd October.
DIRECTOR: BRADLEY PARKER
WRITER: OREN PELI, CAREY VAN DYKE, SHANE VAN DYKE
STARS: INGRID BOLSO BERDAL, DIMITRI DIATCHENKO, OLIVIA DUDLEY, DEVIN KELLEY, JESSE MCCARTNEY, NATHAN PHILLIPS, JONATHAN SADOWSKI
RUNTIME: 86 MINS APPROX