Film Review: Chernobyl Diaries
Am I supposed to be impressed that Oren “lucky as fuck” Peli (the creator of Paranormal Activity) produced another movie?
And I am.
TL;DR But that doesn’t mean Chernoby Diaries is any good. A cool setting doesn’t distract from the bland characters, boring “scares” and obligatory downer ending. 2 out of 5 stars.
So the plot is a bunch of American tourist nobodies, 2 other nobodies, and a shady tour guide go on an illegal jaunt into Chernobyl (I’m linking for convenience, but if you seriously have no idea what the Chernobyl disaster is, you’re Generation I scum and you should fuck off). Radioactive mutant violence ensues. Oh, and everybody dies. Natch.
It’s such a shame that this movie turned out to be jarringly bland. The locations they found for this are spectacular. They’ve got that real “abandoned world” vibe. But everything happening to our “characters” is so trite it just lost all its power.
This is made worse by having our “characters” be one-dimensional idiots simply going through the motions of monster movie victims. The most character development we get is when Big Bro (I didn’t remember these guys’ names. Sif) is like “No, I gotta go back for my brother.”
And Blonde 2 (the non-American) makes it to the final 3 without doing or saying anything of value. I literally didn’t make a single note about her until she died. And even her death was dull.
On the other hand, Chernobyl be creepy as hell.
Why I hate this movie:
It’s a wasted opportunity. That’s the worst part of all.
I think this would have been more engaging if Oren had just gone full-recycle and done it found footage style. The camera work is shaky-cam-fabulous anyway (and done quite well, too).
Jesse McCartney is the younger brother, if you like that kind of thing.
I’m sick to fucking death of horror movies doing the “OMG THEY ALL DIE!!!1!” ending. It’s not shocking anymore. It’s not clever. And it’s a great way to kill a potential franchise (not that I want a Chernobyl Diaries 2, but from a business standpoint).
The characters are hollow. We get a few minutes of the Americans before they go on the tour. Jesse is gonna propose to his blonde girlfriend. Brunette has a camera, which counts as a character trait in this movie. Nathan Phillips turns up with his girlfriend (Blonde 2). He gets to use his Australian accent, so that’s cool.
But then it’s just running away from out-of-frame mutants for an hour.
The most interesting thing that happens is when they come across a barricaded bus with bullet holes resulting from shots fired outward. It’s suggested that a number of the Chernobyl border guards somehow ended up there and tried to hold off the attackers. Which would have been much more exciting than watching 6 20-somethings fumbling in the dark.
After recovering Blonde following her and Jesse’s disappearance, the mutants use a child decoy to draw the attention of the other 4 characters. Blonde sits down next to a staircase while everyone just looks away from her. Surprise, she is captured again. Idiots.
Oh, and Jesse McCartney dies off-screen. I don’t watch a fucking horror movie with Jesse McCartney in the B-list of his career to not see him horribly butchered. Rude.
Reasons to watch:
The setting is the most compelling thing about Chernobyl Diaries. It’s the right fusion of real world facts, urban legend and bullshit horror movie shenanigans.
While obviously not filmed in the Chernobyl plant or Pripyat, the filming locations were in Europe, so there’s a sincere attempt at authenticity that should be applauded.
The only character I really liked was the tour guide, Yuri. Yes, he’s amoral (it’s implied that he knows about the mutants) but he makes a decent effort to do the right thing once shit gets real. And he has a cool Russian accent.
The sudden bear appearance was hilarious.
The characters do make at least 1 practical decision: Jesse is injured and cannot walk, so Blonde stays with him in the van while the others look for help. They stumble upon a car graveyard and actually find some replacement cables for the ones the mutants sabotaged earlier. It’s a shame it all goes to shit when they get back, but going for help and actually finding something to fix the situation is a step above the usual monster/slasher movie dumbassery. Points for trying.
They end up in the Chernobyl plant through a system of tunnels. Radiation ensues. It’s cool.
Oh, and the ending reveals that the government is responsible for the mutants’ presence (they refer to them as “patients,” so it’s unclear if they caused the mutation or are just experimenting on them afterwards). Instead of just being a half-interesting twist, this could have been a plot point. So close.
A creepy setting/situation is good, but it doesn’t make a movie. If the plot had been something other than “they run around until they’re dead” I might have cared. Oh well. 2 out of 5 stars.