Review: Chernobyl Diaries
09:14 02 July 2012
The title suggests an earnest documentary that might get the briefest of cinema outings prior to a screening on More4. The idea that someone would use the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster as the setting for a rehash of The Hills Have Eyes is the only shocking thing about this horror film.
Still, horror stories in and about the Ukraine are popular at the moment and deserted Soviet housing blocks and nuclear facilities are great locations to chase terrified teenagers through.
This particular group of horror fodder is headed by American Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) who has the smug assurance of a man performing a prank in a Pepsi Max advert. When his brother and two friends come to visit him in Kiev, he decides to ditch the trip to Moscow for a bit of extreme tourism; an outing to the fortified, quarantined city that was hastily abandoned and left deserted after the disaster, led by their guide Uri. Except, of course, something has survived.
In most horror films the lull, the initial establishing period of normality, is a formality that you are required to get through before the thrills start, but it is this film’s most endearing feature.
The scenes of them walking through the empty apartment blocks are eerily intriguing. It’s oddly reminiscent of high- brow Russian sci-fi plod Stalker, though Tarkovsky would never have accepted lines like: “Chernobyl, isn’t that where the nuclear disaster happened?” or made a film with “diaries” in the title that didn’t contain any diary or any documenting of events.
It isn’t a found-footage horror though many of the shots are framed as if it was. It’s not a terrible horror film – there’s some very competent flashlight in dark tunnels shots – but it is uninspired one offering second-hand thrills that worked much better in films like [Rec.]
Though he didn’t direct, the film is being marketed as A Film By Oren Peli, the man behind Paranormal Activity, the home movie shot for next to nothing that spawned a franchise and is arguably the most profitable film of all time. He wrote and produced this and there is something rather touching about his devotion to low-budget horror film-making. He’s like the lottery winner who refuses to let the money change his life in any way.
CHERNOBYL DIARIES (15)
Director: Bradley Parker
Starring: Jonathan Sadowski, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Jesse McCartney and Nathan Phillips
Length: 88 mins