Movie Reviews

‘Chernobyl Diaries’: A toxic trip

By Patrick BenjaminMovies - 11 July 2012 7:00 PM

‘Chernobyl Diaries’: A toxic trip

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Rating:  1 star out of 5

Painfully soporific.

This phrase most aptly sums up this hogwash of a film produced by Oren Peli, the brainchild behind lucrative lo-fi horror fest ‘Paranormal Activity’. Helmed by debutant director Brad Parker (previous exploits include visual effects for David Fincher’s Fight Club), whose creativity displayed here is best summed up the liberal use of nausea-inducing fast cuts of jumpy handheld shots, instead of more meditative, languid shots to showcase the budget-conscious zombie-mutants.

Also read: Movie reviews of Paranormal Activity 1, 2 & 3

A Catch-22 situation indeed as a more patient cinematographic approach might have revealed the crassness and laughable nature of these substandard monstrosities. Wasn’t it better to just cloak the deformed beings in a shroud of hazily conceived horror to scare the insipid main characters that seem to pop straight out of a primary school kid’s blog?

According to this movie, the cardinal rule for all budding schlock meisters should be when it seems hare-brained, just go for broke and make it more fatuous. So what is established before the “horror” is a mock docu-realist sham (includes stereotypical comedic bits that were designed to scare) focusing on six young Caucasian backpackers heading for their date with disaster tourism in Prypiat, the desolate city that was once used to house the workers of nuclear power plant Chernobyl.

Also read: The Decade’s 5 Scariest Hollywood Horrors

For folks into Venn diagrams, they might conveniently plonk this hash of a movie into the intersection between Eli Roth’s ‘Hostel’ and Jeff Schaffer’s ‘Euro Trip’.

Like any good East European trip, one needs a guide, hence we await the introduction of Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), a menacingly dodgy ex-special forces soldier who comes attached with gun in rickety van, Russian accented English and peddles tours to “oh we are soon to be trapped Westerners in a hostile foreign land”. 

But unlike a conventional horror movie, which would have developed Uri into a more sinister character with ulterior motives, this movie simply shuns that and he is only painted as another know-it-all former Russian soldier who works a snarl well and adroitly manoeuvres into an abandoned city.

Pretty much the perfect tour guide for a bunch of annoying stock characters who put on their camera perfect terrified (could it be simply the harsh realization of being in a very, very poor movie) faces.

Also read: The best & worst of 'found footage' movies

In fact, by establishing one of the characters burgeoning interest in photography earlier, the director should have milked mileage out of it by giving us a more riveting critique into the nature of disaster tourism. Instead, we are fed with a deluge of decaying, Soviet-styled apartment blocks, a pack of fierce dogs and abandoned objects in a bleak landscape and not even a feeble attempt suggesting the socio-political chasm between the relatively affluent protagonists and their destination of choice. 

This sums up the horrendous character development approach taken by the directorial team who were more interested in capturing a gamut of irrationally petulant scare reactions from the likes of tween idol Jesse McCartney, ‘Wolf Creek’s’ Nathan Phillips who reprises his role as an Aussie backpacker and Norwegian Ingrid Bolso Berdal the resident blond Scandinavian scream queen.

Chernobyl Diaries is a poorly executed movie when it had so much potential, especially when it was shot in highly realistic locations in Hungary and Serbia to stand-in for Prypiat, which is ironically touted as an official site for Ukrainian tourism.  

Even if you are a fan of mindless schlock garbage, we think you are better of giving this putrid stench fest a miss. 

‘Chernobyl Diaries’ opens in theatres 12 July 2012