Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries

Year: 2012
Director: Bradley Parker
Cast: Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Jesse McCartney, Olivia Dudley, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Dimitri Diatchenko

Plot: A group of tourists hire a Russian guide to take them to Pripyat, a deserted town next to Chernobyl for a day of "extreme tourism". After the nuclear disaster in 1986, the place should be completely abandoned, right? No, of course not.

Review: The Chernobyl nuclear disaster is one of the most notorious tragedies in history. It's so devastating that the place is still inhabitable after a quarter of a century. To me, the concept of visiting Chernobyl or its surrounding areas, which have been totally abandoned is intriguing. This is because the buildings are mostly intact, save for some interior destruction thanks to looters and animal invasions and such. Being in an isolated area (ghost town) can be scary indeed.

It is this idea that inspired Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli to write this film. We are introduced to a group of American youths who are in Kiev on holiday. One of them suggests a trip to Chernobyl, so along with another young couple and a Russian guide who apparently has taken many trips to the place, they go over there for some sightseeing. And of course, bad things happen.

Director Bradley Parker, in his feature film debut, paces the film well enough but only manages to keep things interesting until the final 20 minutes or so. The buildup was good, the idea of being trapped in an isolated area with no one to call for help works very well, especially when blood starts to spill. By using mostly unknown actors (including singer Jesse McCartney) and some really authentic set designs for the town, the mood for a solid horror film can be felt.

But Parker resorts to the same tricks over and over again as time passes. Using the dark as a horror tool is always great, but cheap scare tricks, loud sounds and the now-you-see-them-now-you-don't tactic wears out pretty fast. In the final 20 minutes, this flaw is most obvious, and to make matters worse, Parker starts killing the people off in really bullet quick fashion. It's as if he and Peli have run out of ideas and are desperately trying to end the film on a high note. The ending itself is cliched.

To sum it up, Chernobyl Diaries is a promising idea for a horror flick which falls apart towards the finish line. With a bit more substance, it could have been solid and really scary. (3/5)

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