Review of Chernobyl Diaries


Movie Review: "Chernobyl Diaries"

--Rating: R
Release Date: 5/24/2012
Director: Bradley Parker
Genre: Horror

In a new fast-paced horror film released on May 24, 2012 and written by Oren Peli, the mastermind who first thrilled and terrified audiences with "Paranormal Activity," "Chernobyl Diaries" explores the horrors of a nuclear catastrophe and the sometimes more horrific government reaction to these types of events.
The movie opens with four young vacationing friends meeting in Kiev: Chris and his brother Paul, Chris's girlfriend, Natalie, and their mutual friend Amanda. After a night of partying in Moscow, Paul convinces the rest of the group to try "extreme tourism." In this case, that means a tour of the now defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant, which was the site of the 1986 catastrophe that is largely recognized around the world as the worst nuclear power plant accident in history (although it is now joined by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011).

When the power plant erupted in an explosion and subsequent fire, it released massive amounts of radioactive contaminants into the atmosphere, which spread throughout the former Soviet Union, Western Europe and Russia. In an attempt to avoid greater contamination, the town was sealed off from outside activity and everyone was evacuated.. Despite being well versed in the dangerous background of this town, this intrepid group of adventurers nevertheless decide to hire a local Russian tour guide and, together with a backpacking couple, head to Prypiat.

They soon encounter their first roadblock of their journey when the military personnel stationed there forbid them entrance, but their tour guide knows another access point: an unmanned, forested checkpoint. They spend the day checking out the ruins of an abandoned ranch (replete with bloody carcasses of cattle) and the apartment building that had held the workers and their families before they were suddenly evacuated in the wake of the emergency. During the tour, they hear some noises, and eventually see a bear, which surprises their tour guide, Uri. He says that, although he has been coming to Prypiat since he was five years old, he has never seen another living creature in the area. Overall, the group enjoys their flirtation with danger and remain mostly lighthearted, although somewhat startled by the activity in the area.

The group prepares to leave as night falls, but quickly find out that the engine's wires, having been chewed through, are useless and the vehicle is incapacitated. Unfortunately, their radio is also non-functional, effectively leaving them stranded. Due to the stress of being stuck in the car in a restricted area and the unsettling atmosphere, they begin to bicker amongst themselves and blame each other, but when the group hears strange noises resounding in the forest outside the car, Uri and Chris, armed only with a flashlight and a pistol, go to check them out. After hearing gunfire, Paul also leaves the car to try to find Uri and Chris. He returns with only Chris in tow, but Chris's leg has been severely mauled, although what type of creature attacked him is unknown. Chris simply refers to the creatures as "Them."

The next morning they split up, with Chis and Natalie staying in the vehicle and the rest going to look for Uri, ultimately finding his mutilated corpse in an underground facility. It is here that the movie takes a turn from suspenseful to outright horrific. The adventurers take Uri's gun and the Geiger counter and narrowly escape from these still unrecognizable creatures. From this point on in the movie, various members of the group are abducted, and sometimes re-abducted, by the creatures, one-by-one succumbing to radiation sickness and the physical attacks. The movie runs for an hour and a half, and it is the final moments that show the shocking truth behind the facility as well as the fate of the remaining Americans in an ending that is both highly unsettling and very satisfying for horror movie buffs.

The novelty of the setting and the very real fears of a nuclear catastrophe ultimately prove highly effective in this horror story. The use of jump sequences throughout the film keep the suspense high, leaving the audience twisting in their seat as they try, along with the protagonists, to find out where the spooky noises are emanating from. It has garnered a rating of three out of five stars. Although some critics felt like the movie plot was too recognizable, many movie critics were happy to see the tried-and-true standbys of classic horror movies combined with a truly horrifying setting, especially with the film's low production values. Due to the gore, it has an R rating, making it inappropriate for children or for those with a weak stomach for violence.

This film was directed by Bradley Parker, famous for his work on "Fight Club" and "XXX" (also called "Triple X"), and stars Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski and Olivia Dudley.