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General Musings, Reviews

Chernobyl Diaries Review

‘Chernobyl Diaries’ is the latest film to be written & produced by Oren Peli, director of ‘Paranormal Activity’,  however this time the directional duties have been handed to Bradley Parker for his directorial debut. The film follows a trio of young adults, Chris (Jesse McCartney), Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley) & Amanda (Devin Kelly), who are trekking across Europe. On their way to Moscow they stop in Kiev, Ukraine to visit Chris’s brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) who ends up convincing the trio to join him on an extreme tour of the abandoned town of Prypiat. Prypiat is a ghost town which lies in the shadow of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant which suffered a disaster when one of the reactors exploded causing radiation to contaminate surrounding areas. During the tour of the ghost town they soon realise that it is not as empty as they all thought as someone or something hunts them down. Should you join the extreme tour of Prypiat? Read on…

‘Chernobyl Diaries’ is an intriguing concept and a fresh idea, haunted house films have been done so many times that it can be a struggle to do something original with them and few horror films deviate from tried and tested paths. The setting of this film on the other hand has been underutilised, Prypiat and the Chernobyl disaster offer up a true and eerie setting and story which if used well can provide a good basis for a film. Unfortunately ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ takes everything that would have been creepy and scary from its settings and throws it out the window opting for cheap scares every step of the way. Though its not just the scares that are cheap as nearly every facet of the film demonstrates amateurish direction, production and acting which progressively gets worse as the film goes on.
Of course you would approach the curly haired mystery child after being chased  for an hour by something you  had not seen.
Most of your run of the mill horrors tend to use lesser known actors in attempts to keep the budget down and the realism intense. This method may reap rewards under the right direction but in the wrong hands can make a film appear like it went straight to DVD, this time it is 100% the latter. From start to finish the acting is horribly woeful and is arguably the scariest part of the film, the only decent acting is that by Dimitri Diatchenko who plays the tour guide Uri and as you can imagine he does not last long. Ingrid Bolso Berdal who was so good in ‘Cold Prey 1& 2’ is wasted here playing a weak and defenceless women, as for the rest of the cast they are made up of some of the most senseless and hollow characters I’ve seen conveyed in film with just as hollow and cringe worthy acting to boot.  

If you can not buy into the characters then surely you can buy into the story…right? WRONG. All that this film feels like it has as a story is a wafer thin premise, the setting as mentioned is great and the explorations of Prypiat offer a haunting piece of history but a documentary on the disaster could make it look scarier. The story literally goes like this…adults go to Eastern Europe and through an accumulation of idiotic decisions and events they meet their demise. Anybody expecting anything more to this film will be sorely disappointed as even the reveal at the end could not be more boring and unoriginal. The only saving grace that this film has to offer, as mentioned before, is the setting. It is darn creepy and creates a haunting atmosphere but it is all wasted as soon as things begin to go bad for the group because the camera work achieves nothing in the tension building arena.The direction here is amateurish and it fails to make the cheapest of shocks worthy of a jolt in your seat. The only thing it does well is keeping the things hunting the group out of view, but it does it so well that you do not clearly see anything until the final shot and by this point you no longer care and its not worth the wait anyway.

Common practice to take an extreme tour with an ex-spetsnaz  force man  who you have only known for a day…
What is most infuriating about this film is its extraordinary wasted potential. With the right story, the right sequences and the right direction ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ could have been a decent little horror film. There are zero scares or tension featured throughout and any moments which look like they are about to provide us with something do not last long enough to create a fearful atmosphere. One of the most underutilised aspects of the film is that of the Geiger counter, it could have been used in the same way as the motion detectors in ‘Aliens’ just without visuals. This could have resulted in much more tension but instead all it offers is an alarm which tells the group they are entering areas of high radiation which in turn the characters stupidly ignore which in turn makes the device absolutely useless.  

‘Overall ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ is a film full of wasted potential and poorly performing elements. If it did not have the backing of Oren Peli than I doubt this film would have seen the light of day as it screams amateur hour. Though horror films generally divide audiences on their quality and how scary they actually may be, you know there is something wrong with a film when half way through nearly everybody in the auditorium looses interest and talks among themselves. If you are looking for scares here then you are looking in the wrong place as it is simply scary how this film made it to the cinemas. The irony for this film is that its going to contaminate the tagline “From the creator of Paranormal Activity” for years to come and people will look at that line with a lot more scepticism. The Snooty Usher does not approve as this is a disaster of a horror film of nuclear proportions.

About Snooty Usher Dan

Favourite Film: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) Worst Film: The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007) Guilty Pleasure: Step Up 2: The Streets (The dancing is awesome ok.....)


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