Chernobyl Diaries – Review
I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for these kind of movies. I saw the trailers and was totally sold. Cannibalistic mutants living in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster….cool… maybe? All I could think of was that 80s film C.H.U.D.. Chernobyl Diaries is yet another film directed by a visual FX artist turned director, Bradley Parker in his directorial debut. Unoriginal, yes, but it establishes a very cool backdrop.
A group of six young vacationers who, looking to go off the beaten path, hire an “extreme” tour guide. Ignoring warnings, he takes them into the city of Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, but a deserted town since the disaster more than 25 years ago.
I liked Chernobyl Diaries, not loved. It managed to create tension and hold the viewer… for the most part. Performances are pretty good, and the location is chillingly eerie. Chernobyl Diaries is an almost “by the numbers” horror flic. A van full of unsuspecting young adults, a remote location, and a deadly menace looking for its next meal. Unfortunately when it comes to showing the money, the film falls flat as our protagonists are hunted by an implied, but rarely seen enemy. When there is a chance to expose the terror, the scene is poorly lit and blurred. There is not one scene in the film where you get a clear picture of what is hunting them. Even in the full exposition during the film’s climax… nothing but shadows, in fact most of the night scenes are terribly lit. There is never an explanation as to why one victim is mauled and eaten, while another is left unscathed. An early scene in the film has a “creature” (I use the term lightly) encounter in what looks to be a kitchen. The scene is creepy and effective, but it fails to really show you anything. The creature could have been Paddington Bear dry humping the corpse. Every encounter right down to the finale is a badly lit attack with light catching the crests of the bald heads of what I’m assuming are radiation victims. There is never any good shot of the attackers, be it wolves, fish, or mutants. The only clear shot you get is in a bear scene in the early parts of the film.
The writing, yeah I’m gonna tackle the writing. The writers involved have been attached to so much Asylum crap that any let downs in this film are easily understandable… and somewhat expected. As in most horror films of this caliber, every character has failed the incredibly simple course on common sense. Nothing in this film is particularly smart, but of course that just lends to the inevitable slaughter…. but not even that is given fair treatment. The screenplay is penned by Oren Peli who brought us the Paranormal Activity films (they actually scared the shit out of me), but his involvement doesn’t help the film at all… possibly proving that he’s nothing more than a one trick pony.
Being a Visual FX guy, Bradley Parker should have delivered a bit better in that department. Take Skyline for example. The Strause brothers are brilliant visual FX guys turned directors. They’re ability to direct and tell a story is very questionable, but the visuals in Skyline were incredible. Bradley Parker proved 2 things with Chernobyl Diaries… his ability to direct is minimal, and his eye for visuals is non existent. Location and actors aside, this film could have been made for 10 grande easily!
I would also add that a lot of people are comparing this to the Blair Witch style of cinematography… nope, 90% of the film is shot in what appears to be hand held by a cameraman, not one of the characters…. which is also a little disheartening.
Alllll that being said though, I still liked Chernobyl Diaries in a small way. It has a decent amount of tension and a few worthy jump scares. I think it would have served better, and felt more substantial as a straight to DVD release, but it definitely has some stick to it. I would highly recommend NOT paying $10-$12 to see it in theaters though. Wait for a rental or streaming download. If you want to see better, I highly recommend the Spanish films [rec] and [rec]2, or an awesome Australian film called The Tunnel.