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Chernobyl Diaries

Chernobyl Diaries

Released 22 June 2012
Director Bradley Parker

Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Dimitri Diatchenko, Olivia Dudley, Devin Kelley, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips, Jonathan Sadowski

Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke
Producer(s) Oren Peli, Brian Witten
Origin United States
Running Time 87 minutes
Genre Horror
Rating 16

Radioactive waste.

Travel, as the old maxim goes, is supposed to broaden the mind. True for the most part but there are exceptions. The six utterly hateful characters we meet in Chernobyl Diaries are perfect examples of minds that are just too dim to be enlightened. These are the type of tourists who see the world as one big playground built specifically for their gap year. To them, taking a trip to the deserted city of Pripyat, just down the road from the Chernobyl nuclear plant doesn’t seem like a distasteful source of holiday hijinx, it’s just a cool way to get some edgy photographs!

So let’s examine our unfortunate tourists. Responsible i.e. boring Chris (Jesse McCartney) is travelling Europe with his girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley) and her best friend Amanda (Devin Kelley). All is going well until they drop in on Chris’s irresponsible i.e. moronic brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) who is living in Kiev. Paul suggests that they all do a bit of “extreme tourism” and take in the sights of Pripyat. So it is that they end up in a rickety van with two other backpackers and an ex-military hardman named Uri on their way to the deserted town. Things quickly go wrong when the van is sabotaged and they realise they are not alone after all.

Hateful characters aren’t necessarily a problem in horror movies - after all it’s much more fun to watch them being ripped limb from limb - but in this case I couldn’t escape the feeling that the whole production was just as blindly insensitive as its characters. Producer Oren Peli (of Paranormal Activity fame) may have spoken up to say that the film was made with the utmost respect for the victims and survivors of the disaster but it’s hard to take that seriously when the monsters of the piece are violent, murderous radioactive mutants. An interesting interpretation of the word respect.

Even besides the dubious morality of the whole thing, Chernobyl Diaries is just plain terrible. The acting is awful, the script laughable and the scares non-existent. Director Bradley Parker doesn’t even make use of the unique location. Clearly trying to pay homage to Peli, he continually crowbars in the found footage aesthetic of Paranormal Activity with the use of camera phones and shaky handhelds  - the result is tedious and pointless. This is indicative of the whole film - trying so hard to be edgy and cool but coming off as desperate, tasteless and unpleasant. Avoid as if it were radioactive.

- Linda O’Brien