Chernobyl Diaries: "Have You Heard Of Extreme Tourism"

Director: Bradley Parker
Writer:    Oren Peli
               Carey Van Dyke
               Shane van Dyke
Starring: Jesse McCartney
               Olivia Taylor Dudley
               Devin Kelley
               Jonathan Sadowski
               Ingrid Bolso Berdal
               Nathan Phillips
               Dimitri Diatchenko
Rating:    **

Release Date: Out Now

As morbid and awful as it may sound, the abandoned, radioactive terrain of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the scene of a horrific disaster in 1986, really does provides an excellent canvas for the latest low budget horror movie from Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity). Unfortunately, the atmospheric setting is ruined by a script that fails to supply audiences with any reasons to empathise with the characters or care about their gruesome fates, along with a glaring lack of real tension and scary enemies.

We're intorduced to a dull group of forgettable yet attractive 20-somethings as they embark on a dangerous excursion to the ghost town of Prypiat. The town is in fact strictly off-limits due to its close proximity to Chernobyl, the affore mentioned nuclear power plant. Their tour guide Uri (Diatchenko) assures them that it is safe enough to visit and navigates past various military checkpoints and shows them around the ravaged village. This is where the twist kicks in...when thye arrive, they're not alone...I know, it's predictable. Now they have arrived, the cliche-filled 'lambs to the slaughter' plot really gets going as their minibus mysteriously breaks down, leaving them stranded.

It takes the film a hell of along time to set up the premise, which means the scares get left a little to late. Yet even with the drawn out and dull opening, they completely fail to create any likable or even semi-credible characters for us to route for. It's hard to describe them beyond saying that one looks like an extremely hungover Elizabeth Banks, another has rather large boobs that give a better performance than she does, plus there's a young lad who plans to propose to his girlfriend after the ill-fated trip (another fresh idea there). Plus, there's a guy with facial hair, which I guess is there to define his gender. So many obvious physical traits and not nearly enough interesting personality ones.

I will admit that Bradley Parker's direction is pretty good considering the poor script, he conures the occasional burst of tension by rightly keeping the murderous villains out of shot and relying heavily on sounds and quick shots of images, leaving your mind to wonder "was that what I thought it was". The only thing that ruins the scares is the irritating use of loud music to try and force scares, all they do manage to do is take the viewer out of the experience remind them how cliched and contrived the horror genre can be if not done correctly. 

Seeing as it is a nuclear disaster setting, we are treated to aggressive and mutated fish, bears and dogs that are purely there to emphasise the hostile terrain that protagonists are marooned in, but too little is done with their involvement so they are soon forgotten about. Not enough engaging situations are created, as the story falls to the usual premise of the survivors being picked off one by one as they roam round the area, equipped with torches and little in the way of working brain cells. 

There are many films long before this one that follow the same premise, and most are much better, so I suggest you take a look at Severance (for example), it is brilliantly scary and wickedly funny aswell, the perfect blend; plus it's probably cheaper than a cinema ticket.

Chernobyl Diaries - Trailer