Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Chris (Jesse McCartney) travels to Kiev, Ukraine for a brief visit with his brother, Paul (Johnathan Sadowski). Amanda (Devin Kelley) and Chris’ girlfriend, Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley) accompany him on the trip, and the small group of friends try to enjoy a peaceful vacation. Chris has plans of proposing marriage to Natalie in Moscow, Russia, but Paul changes everything with one bright idea.

Paul decides to take the group on an extreme tour to the ruined town of Pripyat. The abandoned town of Pripyat suffered severe damage after the tragic explosion of the Chernobyl
Nuclear Power Plant, but Paul wants to give his brother an unforgettable adventure. Michael (Nathan Phillips) and Zoe (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) are two curious backpackers, who eventually join the tour, and Uri ( Dimitri Diatchenko) is the trusted tour guide. Uri runs into a little trouble at first, but he finds a way to sneak his group of customers into the town of Pripyat by using a backdoor entrance.

Uri’s tour lives up to the hype at first, but along the way, Uri begins to display signs of suspicious behavior. After an unpleasant surprise, Uri decides to end the tour early, but the group returns to a startling discovery, when they find Uri’s van. The wires have been destroyed, and the group is stranded in the abandoned town of Pripyat. But the lack of transportation isn’t their biggest problem. Dangerous stray dogs and bloodthristy mutants stalk the tourists, and the group must avoid the deadly levels of radiation, if they want to escape Pripyat alive.

Chernobyl Diaries should’ve been the perfect horror film, right? The true backstory of the Chernobyl disaster provides a strong sense of realism, the acting is pretty solid, and this film does feature some good scares every now and then, so where did they go wrong? Well, Chernobyl Diaries isn’t a complete train wreck, but I can't ignore the noticeable problems. First of all, the overwhelming amount of stupidity is annoying. Let’s review the series of dumb choices throughout Chernobyl Diaries:

1. Hiring Uri as a tour guide- There’s something fishy about this guy. Uri promises the group of tourists a clear and unobstructed path to Pripyat…..but when they finally reach the town, the tour group runs into a security checkpoint with military guards? Uri tries to talk one of the guards into giving him a free pass, and as he argues with one guard, another guard circles the van. The armed guard gives the tour group this mean “what the fuck are you doing here?” look, but none of them see this as a sign of serious trouble? Uri gets back in the van, and apparently the guards are having problems with his clearance on this particular day? Anyway, Uri sneaks the group through some rundown backdoor entrance to Pripyat, and the tour begins.

Clearly, Uri is lying. He isn’t welcome, and the guards don’t know him, so why would you continue to trust this man? Oh, and during the tour, Uri goes out of his way to hide signs of radiation poison. This guy is just a sleazy con artist, and he will do anything for some quick cash. Some of the tourists (mainly Chris) begin to suspect something, but they STILL trust this guy with their lives. Unbelievable

2. I don’t have a gun, but I’m still going to follow you!- The survivors are trapped inside the van at night. It’s pitch dark, but the group hears weird noises in the distance. Uri pulls out a flashlight and a gun, and he decides to investigate the strange sounds. Uri rushes to find the source of the noises…and Chris follows him? Okay, Uri has a GUN, and Chris doesn’t have anything to protect himself, but he follows Uri into the dark regardless? Really??? Uri fires a series of wild shots, but he can’t survive a deadly attack. Uri disappears, and Paul rushes to rescue his brother. Chris returns with a gruesome injury, and Uri disappears without a trace.

3. It’s nighttime, cannibals/mutants are stalking us, so let’s stay in the car with one gun-After an attack from mutants and stray dogs, Chris suffers a severe injury. He must endure the excruciating pain of a mutilated leg. Uri is gone (finally), and the group needs to find help fast. The team of survivors quickly organize a group, and this group will search for help. Chris wants to go…but the pain of his injured leg is just too much. He can’t put any weight on it, and he doesn’t want to drag the team down, so he decides to stay in the van? Oh, and his loyal girlfriend, Natalie decides to stay with him. And to top it off, Paul gives Natalie the only gun for protection. Of course, as Paul and the other survivors search for help, Chris and Natalie are abducted by mutants (gee, what a surprise). Paul and the rest of the group return to the van. The van is now officially damaged beyond repair, Chris and Natalie are gone, and naturally, Paul freaks out, and starts to blame himself.

Wow… just wow. Okay, Chris is injured. I get that, but you’re going to have to carry him at some point. You’re stranded in an abandoned town with mutants, who are literally trying to eat you. You don’t have time to leave people behind. Natalie and Chris were sitting ducks in the middle of nowhere. One gun with an injured guy, and a terrified girlfriend VS a pack of hungry mutants? Yeah, it’s not hard to predict the winner of this particular fight. There’s always strength in numbers, and the group of survivors would’ve had a better chance of protecting Chris, if they stuck together. Also, Paul and the search group could’ve avoided a lot of trouble from the attacking stray dogs, but they left the only weapon that could do some real damage with the injured brother and a petrified Natalie. Ugh.

The gun, plus greater numbers gives you a better fighting chance, but no. They just had to pull the typical “let’s split up!” bullshit.
**End spoilers**

I’m sorry, but I can’t feel any sympathy for stupid characters, and Chernobyl Diaries takes stupidity to a whole new level. “Are they trying to die?” I constantly asked myself this question throughout the film, and the answer was a resounding “YES!” every time. You’re stuck in a life threatening situation. I’m supposed to be rooting for your survival, but I couldn’t wait for the certain deaths of the main characters in this one. Next to the mutants, the main cast of characters were their own worst enemy. Paul is an idiot and a douchebag, and every other character lacks common sense.

At first, I did have high hopes for Chernobyl Diaries. The early stages of this film featured some great tension, the jump scares felt surprising, and the abandoned town of Pripyat provided the perfect chilling atmosphere. But then I started to notice the stupidity of the main characters. Chernobyl Diaries delivered some great scares early on, but as time progressed, painful boredom killed all of the momentum for this film. Chernobyl Diaries will give you some spooky moments, but the terror eventually fades away and unfortunately, any hopes for a good horror film are flushed down the toilet. You’ll have to suffer through a series of uninteresting and tiresome chase scenes, as the main characters continuously run from the mutants. “Oh, look. They’re running from the mutants…..again.” The constant barrage of chase scenes quickly turn into dull snoozefests, and I really forced myself to stay awake during the final moments of this film.

Oren Peli and the Van Dyke brothers (Shane and Carey) wrote the screenplay for this one, and they really dropped the ball here. Bradley Parker didn’t do a bad job on the directing side of things, but the screenplay is just atrocious. It’s a real shame, because Peli and the Van Dyke brothers did have some great source material to work with.

I could sense a great amount of potential at first, but Chernobyl Diaries eventually devolves into your typical below average mainstream horror film, filled with predictable horror clichés, and moronic characters. Foolishly, I clinged to a shred of hope during this film. “It has to get better. It can’t be this bad. Chernobyl Diaries is going to pick up again at some point.” My feelings of hope were crushed, and I struggled to find some positive highlights, because the bad really outweighs the good here. Too much stupidity, painful boredom, a handful of unanswered questions, and the lame ending didn’t help anything. I guess they were going for a terrifying cliffhanger, but Chernobyl Diaries already lost my attention by that point, and I just didn’t give a shit anymore.

Chernobyl Diaries could’ve been that one delightful treat for horror fans in 2012, but I’m going to think of an awful and boring disappointment, when I remember this film.

Final Rating: 3/10

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