>> Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Title: Chernobyl Diaries

Genre: Horror

Starring: Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Dimitri Diatchenko

Director: Bradley Parker

Studio: Warner Bros.

Runtime: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes

In Theatres: May 25, 2012

MPAA Rating: R

Rating: 1.88 (out of 4.00)

Grade: C-

Official Site

In 1986 the Chernobyl power plant suffered one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, contaminating hundreds of miles of lands with radioactive fallout. It was so bad, the neighboring city of Pripyat had to be evacuated in minutes, leaving an abandoned shell of a city where buildings and personal belongings remained frozen in time, forever contaminated by radiation. When a group of American visitors decide to do some “extreme touring” and visit the desolate city, things quickly spiral out of control and they soon find themselves fighting for survival.

Chernobyl Diaries comes from the mind of Paranormal Activity visionary Oren Peli and directed by newcomer Bradley Parker. Rather than the found footage archetype, the film follows a more stereotypical narrative, although there are the occasional moments that venture into the recordings of a handheld camera or cellphone. As a result, the film isn’t as frightening as I was hoping for.

Chris (Jesse McCartney) and his two friends Amanda and Natalie (Devin Kelley and Olivia Dudley) are convinced by his older brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) to take a tour of Pripyat. Things take a turn for the worst when their van breaks down, leaving them stranded in the still radioactive city. As night falls, the group soon realizes that they’re not alone.

Chernobyl Diaries features a forgettable cast of characters who beg to be killed by the creatures they’re running from. It’s almost like it’s impossible for a horror film to feature intelligent characters. Whether it’s Paul’s constant screaming of “Chris!” or the comically frightened look on someone’s face, the film manages to be laughable rather than scary. There are a few moments, though, that capture the creepiness perfectly.

Filming actually took place in the abandoned city of Pripyat so all the buildings and overgrown foliage is real, making the setting the most interesting/creepy aspect of the film. The sheer silence in some scenes can play mind tricks and simply knowing that this was once a place where people lived and worked, only to be evacuated in mere minutes is a bit disturbing. It’s unfortunate then, that the horrors infesting the city aren’t nearly as frightening.

Despite its dead appearance, Pripyat is haunted by mutated people who roam the empty wasteland scavenging whatever food they can find. That includes Chris and his friends. Much of the film is spent running away from these monsters, with only quick glimpses revealing their radioactive bodies. There are a few standout jumpy moments, but nothing truly terrifying or even that surprising. Chernobyl Diaries is a stereotypical horror film, albeit with a different location.

Oren Peli created something truly terrifying with Paranormal Activity but so far, he hasn’t managed to venture out much further. Chernobyl Diaries is a less-than-stellar attempt at crafting a story around the real-life disaster that happened at Chernobyl. Yes, it has its moments, but it doesn’t quite deliver a worthy horror experience.

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