MOVIE MADNESS #103: CHERNOBYL DIARIES

We all know Chernobyl, the world’s biggest nuclear power plant disaster. It is an extreme cautionary tale and now over 25 years later the zone is still radiated. Sounds like the perfect place for a vacation!

Four young attractive American tourists are looking for a unique experience while sightseeing in Kiev, Ukraine.

One of the brothers, Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), who has transplanted himself to the city, suggests why not journey up to the site where the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened.

Paul does this to impress cutie Amanda (Devin Kelley) who happens to be an amateur photographer.

Paul’s younger brother Chris (Jesse McCartney) and his girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Dudley) reluctantly agree to go along.

Their tour guide is Yuri (Dimitri Diatchenko) of “Yuri’s Extreme Traveling”. He is a big burly guy who happens to be ex-Special Forces.

He says he knows a way into Pripyat, the city that used to house the 50,000 people who worked Chernobyl. The city was abandoned when its citizens had literally minutes to evacuate.

Their excursion is just one big joke and they all seem to be having a blast. Well that is until their van breaks down and they are forced to spend the night in Pripyat, now a city of horrors.

As Jesse McCartney’s character says in the first 10 minutes, “You guys are kidding me, right? You guys are so weak.” That was my consensus when I heard they were going to shoot a movie in Chernobyl. How in the world could you think it would be a good idea to shoot a movie there?

Director Bradley Parker was the visual effects supervisor on “Fight Club”, “XXX”, “Time Machine” and “Let Me In” and this film marks his directorial debut. Parker shoots the film pseudo-documentary by following his actors with hand-held. Some of the van sequences are pretty interesting as you wonder where Parker put the camera.

The film was written by Oren Peli, the brainiac behind the horror franchise, “Paranormal Activity”.

His next film will bring his insider style to the infamous “Area 51″. “Chernobyl” is a far cry from a movie that relies on home security footage. This story had to be staged and creepy from the get go. It just isn’t.

I liked some of Peli’s characters including the squabbling brothers, his tour guide is quite a character and even Devin Kelley’s Amanda has some meat to her character.  I liked the performances from Sadowski, Kelly, McCartney and Diatchenko. There is some real natural and raw talent here.

This movie is basically one part Hostel and two parts “Hills Have Eyes”. The problems with the film begin with the lack of tension from the get go. Parker’s lack of experience does show in some of his pacing in earlier scenes.

One of the secrets of making a good horror film is the pacing. The more successful ones are really amplified by camera placement and pacing.

While Chernobyl’s documentary style should use that style as a keypoint. Take “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Saw” or a classic like “Psycho” for example, those film’s best asset is pacing. They are harrowing movies. And that wasn’t because of story or gore but pacing, performance and how they are edited.

The pacing does get more intense as the film goes but it really is a lot of flashlights in the dark, survival horror with a “Hills Have Eyes” spinal cord. Besides the natural raw performance from the actors this movie is for genre fans only.

3 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

One thought on “MOVIE MADNESS #103: CHERNOBYL DIARIES

  1. Nice review. Just saw this myself and pretty much agree with everything you said. I thought the premise was very good, but it just lacked tension. Could have been so much better.

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