Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on May 25, 2012
Directed by Brad Parker
Written by Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, and Shane Van Dyke
Cast: Jesse McCartney, Devin Kelley, Jonathan Sadowski, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Dimitri Diatchenko, Milos Timotijevic, Pasha D. Lychnikoff, Ivana Milutinovic
The preview trailer had me hooked: a group of college-age vacationers take an ‘extreme tour’ of Chernobyl, where in 1986 an explosion at the nuclear power plant there rendered the area uninhabitable; specifically, the six are taken by their Russian guide to the neighboring town of Pripyat, which has stood abandoned for a quarter century after those who lived and worked there were evacuated. Of course, the story doesn’t end there, as the group becomes stranded at the site and by nightfall find themselves stalked by persons and/or creatures unknown.
Initially, I was worried that this was going to be another ‘found-footage’ horror movie, and our collegiate heroes would turn out to be your typical punk-ass jerks who would serve no purpose but to ruin the film for me; thankfully, it was neither. Instead, what the film offered along with its patented ‘unseen something disposes of hapless teens one-by-one’ storyline were some moments of tension, a few creepy reveals, the novelty of a radioactive city as a backdrop, and surprisingly, a collection of people whose plight I somehow cared about.
That doesn’t mean Chernobyl Diaries was perfect, however. When it came to horror movie plots and themes, it broke no new ground, and as expected, there were times where the decisions of the characters had me thinking Wake up, morons!, and after a while I became frustrated with the complete helplessness of their situation. But at the very least, these guys and gals showed some smarts, and the screenwriters made a modest attempt to explain away their actions (if I was there, I wouldn’t leave my brother behind, either), which overall helped make the proceedings a tad easier to digest.
Could this have been a better movie? Yes, in a dozen different ways, but to me it wasn’t as bad as everyone seems to think, and if you forgive the ‘seen it before’ storyline and a few questionable calls, there’s a respectable amount of fun and chills to be had, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing late on a Friday night, when you’re bored and there’s nothing else on. And here’s an idea: when you’re in a foreign country, and your brother has plans to propose to his girlfriend, don’t suddenly change the day’s itinerary…especially if it involves doing dubious things with dodgy tour guides in irradiated ghost towns. (5/10)