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DVD/BLURAY REVIEW: FTN reviews The Chernobyl Diaries

October 20th, 2012 by Stuart Miller Comments

Directed By: Bradley Parker
Starring: Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Olivia Dudley, Devin Kelley
Rating: Running Time: 86 mins

Six tourists hire an extreme tour guide who takes them to the abandoned city Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. During their exploration, they soon discover they are not alone.

Since directing the first Paranormal Activity film back in 2007, Oren Peli has decided to step away from the director’s chair and worked on screenplays for numerous movies which, we have to say, have been particularly disappointing.

The reason why he hasn’t done that well on the writing side of things is that he has given his stories to inexperienced directors AS is the case with Chernobyl Diaries.

The film centres around three friends who go on a trip across Europe and intend to stop off in Kiev so Chris (Jesse McCartney) can surprise his brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski). Once they meet up they decide to have a night out on the town and this is where Paul reveals that he has set up an interesting trip to the small town of Priypiat, which is located on the outskirts of Chernobyl where a horrible nuclear disaster happened.

Before heading out to Prypiat they also meet up with their tour guide, Yuri, and another couple who are joining them. On reaching the outskirts of the town they are stopped by armed guards who tell them they aren’t allowed in, however this doesn’t stop the group (does it ever? – Ed) and they find an alternative route. After spending a few hours in the town they head back to their tour bus where they discover it has been tampered with and they relise they might not be as alone as they thought.

The story itself has a very typical premise, however from the start of the film you realize that what both the director and writer have done is take a simple story but put it in a setting where a good horror movie has been crying out to be set. You see, Prypiat is this abandoned town where the families of the workers of the Chernobyl reactor lived and had to abandon when the reactor went off, leaving everything behind. This gave the town the eerie real-life setting and it’s used well, with dilapidated merry-go-rounds and big wheels just left to rust and wither.

The problems with the film occur as soon as you get over the setting and you realise that what we have under the surface is just another run-of-the-mill horror film that is lacking in every other department. You see, the cast is filled with actors whose performances leave much to be desired – screaming and looking scared on cue being the best of their abilities, which really distracts you from the film. It’s not just the acting that is lazy but the story too, as it follows the same kind of check-list that we have seen many times before and usually done better.

Leaving aside the bad acting, the story is the biggest downfall as it has nothing in the scares department, even though you have a setting where there should be scares and jumps around every corner. Instead you have whimpers and the odd ‘boo!’ which boils down to a waste of an interesting location. It doesn’t get any better when we go inside the buildings as there is no tension, despite having a dark and creepy atmosphere that should provide the scares needed.

Overall, what you have here is a fantastic idea that is surrounded by the usual clichés that drag a horror movie down instead of making it shine. Having a fantastic location is not enough to save a very lazy film like this and in better hands it would have been much more better.

2 out of 5 nerds

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Stuart is co-founder and one of the hosts of the Monday movie show. Ever since the age of two he's been a huge movie fan, especially horror films since one of the first films he ever watched was Poltergeist, yes at age two. Since then he can't stop watching films and over the years it has become a bit of an obsession, but it's not just films that he has a passion for; he's also a huge videogame fanatic and has also been known for belting out the odd tune or two. For more on what Stuart does visit