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Review: Chernobyl Diaries

May. 25, 2012by: JimmyO

PLOT: Won't horror movie characters ever learn? If you travel to a strange land and someone promises you a vacation youll never forget, what they mean is you wont be alive long enough to forget it. Such is the case when six tourist decide to go extreme touring to the abandoned area where the Chernobyl disaster took place. Guess what? Bad things happen.

REVIEW: It may be a surprise to some that CHERNOBYL DIARIES is not a found footage feature. It may have the aesthetics with the shaky camera and low budget mentality, but it attempts to venture out into the world of narrative storytelling. The film features a group of twenty-something tourists convinced to do what one would call extreme touring. Basically they decide to visit the location of the Chernobyl disaster a real life catastrophic nuclear accident which took place on April 26, 1986. A tour guide and the six sightseers make their way to the abandoned area in order to witness where the devastation took place. Yet once they arrive, they are told by the guards at a check point that they cannot enter. Of course, like any sane person they go back and spend the day in Moscow right? Nope, they take a hidden road to get into the ruins ignoring the warnings.

It is damn near impossible to feel any sympathy or understanding for these people as they constantly make horrible decisions. This lunacy includes ignoring the very stern warnings, separating from each other often, wasting time to look for others that are most likely dead. So ideally you could excuse some of this dumb behavior because this is a horror film after all. Yet for some reason, their impressive ability to make moronic decisions often feels more irritating than most films of this ilk. When Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) searches for his brother Chris (a questionably cast Jesse McCartney) he screams out to him even when they are knowingly hunted by a lurking presence. Sure he loves his brother, but come on man this is ridiculous. And for an extreme tour guide who has done this exact tour so many times before, why does he seem to have no idea as to what he is doing half the time. Of course, one could argue that he is just a fraud who really is clueless.

The script written by Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke offers a few moments of genuine suspense. Even director Bradley Parker occasionally creates a sense of tension as the group of fodder find themselves stranded in a city brewing with radiation, wild animals and something horrible lingering in the darkness. Yet so much of the mysterious element is lost due to an all too familiar pattern. It is clear who will be the last victim standing and it is clear as to what they will be standing up against. The lack of mystery diminishes the intensity brought on by a handful of sequences. It doesnt help matters that characters follow such predictably bad behavior. At least they didnt decide to have sex in some creepy place because it would be totally hot to do so. That wouldve really pissed me off.

The cast is a surprisingly capable group of actors thankfully. Simply because they make idiotic choices doesnt mean bad acting per say. The stand-outs include Sadowski who, despite absolutely no chemistry with his on-screen brother, is a sympathetic part-time jerk with a heart. If only they had hired another actor for Chris as McCartney is so utterly bland and flat that I couldnt wait for him to disappear. If there had been a better connection between the two it might have made for a more suspense filled drama. And of course, there is the lovely and very natural Devin Kelley as Amanda. Again, her character is irritatingly stupid, yet she also happens to be very amiable as the girl in peril. The rest of the cast including Dimitri Diatchenko as the hapless tour guide, the lovely Olivia Taylor Dudley and another couple that join the tour, Ingrid Bols Berdal and Nathan Phillips were all engaging enough. They even made much of the dialogue feel natural in context of this horrific situation.

It is hard to really recommend CHERNOBYL DIARIES even if it has a couple of potent moments. I wont even get into the fact that more than a few people have expressed uneasiness about creating a horror movie such as this revolving around such a devastating event in history. If the idea of that bothers you, you may want to skip this one. As well you should if you are not a fan of the found footage sub-genre. While it may not be that type of film in general, audiences who do not appreciate the shaky cam feel will most certainly be bothered by this as well. This is not a terrible film yet it isnt necessarily good. The scares are jolty enough for a packed theatre on a Saturday night. Nevertheless it might get under your skin a little more effectively watching in the comfort of your own home. And in case you are wondering, the ending isnt a complete letdown even if it is obvious.

Extra Tidbit: What are your thoughts on making a horror film about a real life disaster such as Chernobyl?
Source: JoBlo.com

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12:43AM on 05/27/2012
I'm split right down the middle on this one, so I dig the 5 rating. It definitely has its moments of suspense, but boy is this cast just ridiculously retarded. I know most people will tend to hate Jesse McCartneys character, but I find him to be the only logical one there. The ending, predictable as it is, is also pretty f'd up but brings everything to a close.
I'm split right down the middle on this one, so I dig the 5 rating. It definitely has its moments of suspense, but boy is this cast just ridiculously retarded. I know most people will tend to hate Jesse McCartneys character, but I find him to be the only logical one there. The ending, predictable as it is, is also pretty f'd up but brings everything to a close.
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10:35PM on 05/26/2012
This review is like a step by step explanation of why Cabin in the Woods is brilliant.
This review is like a step by step explanation of why Cabin in the Woods is brilliant.
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12:09PM on 05/26/2012

@TarantinoDork...

Exactly. Hence the reason why movies like HOSTEL suck. The guys were fucking morons and their stupidity landed them where they were.
Exactly. Hence the reason why movies like HOSTEL suck. The guys were fucking morons and their stupidity landed them where they were.
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2:08PM on 05/26/2012
Yeah...but I see Hostel as mostly a piece of satire, not real horror. A broad and deliberate lampooning of stereotypes that made the movies fun.
Yeah...but I see Hostel as mostly a piece of satire, not real horror. A broad and deliberate lampooning of stereotypes that made the movies fun.
+0
10:27AM on 05/26/2012
I'll hand out a 6 to this baby . I completely agree with the Jesse McCartney issue , I'd have slapped his ass all over , so fucking irritating . Nobody does the right thing in these flicks , and as maddening as it is , it ain't gonna change . I thought several characters were relatable , and '' COLD PREY '' Star Ingrid Bolso Berdal was great . The ending , as you say , was mapped out very early , but it could have been a complete train wreck , and was well-executed . I've seen far better Fright
I'll hand out a 6 to this baby . I completely agree with the Jesse McCartney issue , I'd have slapped his ass all over , so fucking irritating . Nobody does the right thing in these flicks , and as maddening as it is , it ain't gonna change . I thought several characters were relatable , and '' COLD PREY '' Star Ingrid Bolso Berdal was great . The ending , as you say , was mapped out very early , but it could have been a complete train wreck , and was well-executed . I've seen far better Fright Flicks , but I've seen scores of 'em , that were much , much worse .
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5:12AM on 05/26/2012
Much rather someone actually made a movie about the Chernobyl disaster. So far all we've got is a not very good tv movie with Jon Voight.
Much rather someone actually made a movie about the Chernobyl disaster. So far all we've got is a not very good tv movie with Jon Voight.
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2:39AM on 05/26/2012
And oh yeah, who else when they see the commercials for this flick immediately thinks of the 'All Ghillied Up' level from Call of Duty 4?
And oh yeah, who else when they see the commercials for this flick immediately thinks of the 'All Ghillied Up' level from Call of Duty 4?
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2:38AM on 05/26/2012
The crux of any halfway decent terror film is that you actually identify with and care about the characters. Its why the first half of 'The Strangers' is phenomenal and the second half is mindnumbingly dumb. The characters stop making realistic choices and you start rooting for the bad guys.

As such, I could never get into a movie which STARTS with the conceit of five dummies deciding over lattes that it'd be fun to trust some seedy guy with a rusty van to take us into a radioactive ghost
The crux of any halfway decent terror film is that you actually identify with and care about the characters. Its why the first half of 'The Strangers' is phenomenal and the second half is mindnumbingly dumb. The characters stop making realistic choices and you start rooting for the bad guys.

As such, I could never get into a movie which STARTS with the conceit of five dummies deciding over lattes that it'd be fun to trust some seedy guy with a rusty van to take us into a radioactive ghost town. Yeah...that sounds better than a nude beach in the French Riviera.

What do you think is gonna happen idiots?
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2:22AM on 05/26/2012

really?

5 out of 10? Too generous. Way too generous

This movie makes the devil inside look like the exorcist. Lazy filmmaking, Awful storytelling and terrible... Terrible.. Fucking TERRIBLE characters.
Go spend your money on something better. Like seeing the avengers for the 4th time, or buying 10 slushies
5 out of 10? Too generous. Way too generous

This movie makes the devil inside look like the exorcist. Lazy filmmaking, Awful storytelling and terrible... Terrible.. Fucking TERRIBLE characters.
Go spend your money on something better. Like seeing the avengers for the 4th time, or buying 10 slushies
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11:06PM on 05/25/2012
I'm checking this out anyway. Chernoybl has always fascinated me in a creepy sort of way. Just the idea of a town that essentially had to be evacuated overnight is still pretty much left as it was in 1986. I wish some video games in the style of Silent Hill would tackle this location.
I'm checking this out anyway. Chernoybl has always fascinated me in a creepy sort of way. Just the idea of a town that essentially had to be evacuated overnight is still pretty much left as it was in 1986. I wish some video games in the style of Silent Hill would tackle this location.
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10:57PM on 05/25/2012
Seems like a Redbox movie that something to go out to the theater for. I'll still see it regardless because I'm interested in the Chernobyl history and it looked like an alright film.
Seems like a Redbox movie that something to go out to the theater for. I'll still see it regardless because I'm interested in the Chernobyl history and it looked like an alright film.
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