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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Much like Chernobyl itself in the real world, there really isn't much to see here. Not of any worth, at least. Much like the town of Prypyat, this effort is grey, entirely predictable and more than a bit unfortunate. Louis Theroux's documentary about Chernobyl, after the horrific events, would be a much more satisfying watch if you're after a potted history with additional sightseeing thrown in for good measure.

And if not, then why bother with this? If not for the location, then you really have no reason to spend your time on this. If it is for the location, then you're not really after a horror/fright movie, you're after something Louis would provide. There are at least a dozen movies just like this one, based in places all over the world that use more suitable backdrops for what is essentially the same tale.

With a screenplay written by Oren Peli, you can already have a pretty good guess at what you're going to get. The creator of Paranormal Activity takes more pleasure out of not showing his audience what they are scared of, rightly assuming that their imagination is infinitely more elaborate and persuasive than anything he could show on screen and he often (though not always) uses that same approach with the story here, encouraging Director Bradley Parker to concentrate on the terror that comes from what is an enemy unseen.

You have to forget the fact that the radiation from this vaporized reactor would kill and not mutate the living. You have to because reality would pretty much ruin the film from the getgo. If there wasn't the chance of mutants then this would make one depressing (not to mention brief) main feature.

Six young Euro-American tourists hire a tour guide in Moscow to show them around the town of Prypyat. This is notable only as the town where practically all of the Chernobyl employees lived, due to its location, right next door to the nuclear plant. The idea of the tour was to see the ruins of the town, which was abandoned with no notice when the reactor went critical. Naturally, these pretty young things have to be insanely stupid to go along with this in the first place, but that is a given. If young, expendable Americans weren't available, then we would have nothing to point and laugh at. Too often I am found cursing the idiots who make these films, but what we should really be doing is having a pop at the audience that, despite perfectly arguments to the contrary, continue to flock to see this type of thing in enough numbers to make them financially viable cinematic projects.

And wouldn't you just know it, those that make decisions, like this particular troupe of tourists, in haste (or gross stupidity) will get to enjoy their error at leisure. After an uneventful trip, they find themselves denied access to the town by a guarded checkpoint. So they try circumnavigate to their destination with immediate success. So begins their real adventure. Needless to say, the town isn't anywhere near as empty as they had been led to believe.

The direction is predictable and the acting likewise. I have often said that running about and screaming does not an actor make and this is certainly the case here. There is nothing unique or inventive about the script and the plot is simple, with no twists unpredictable enough for you not to see coming. What character development there is (and there isn't much) does not endear the audience to the players and you have every right to lay bets on who gets to buy the farm or kick the bucket first. If you're like me, you'll probably be looking at your watch after less than an hour, hoping that their deaths will be swift, affording you the opportunity to go and watch something else.

Formulaic, predictable and bland. Not one for the purist, I'd say.


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