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STUDIO Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME 88 Minutes
• Uri’s Extreme Tours Infomercial
• Additional Scene
• Alternate Ending
Six tourists hire an extreme tour guide who takes them to the abandoned city Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. During their exploration, they soon discover they are not alone.
Brad Parker (director), Jonathan Sadowski, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Jesse McCartney and Nathan Philips
The creator of Paranormal Activity attempts to scare people without using the found footage concept.
Radiation zombies and wild animals attack. Add some padding at the beginning of the story, some poor character decisions and you are left with a typical horror film that does some things well but never well enough to stand out.
It doesn’t take long into the film to realize the first twenty minutes are padding. The good side to that is other than an abandoned plot item, the actors are charismatic and the scenery is interesting. Short segments detailing three vacationers on a trip overseas showcase some picturesque locales such as London and Paris before arriving at the apartment of the male’s older brother. They have a night on the town where the younger brother becomes the annoying whiner and the older brother shows off his alpha male syndrome by almost getting in a fight with a bunch of thugs. They soon take the trip that puts them in the abandoned town outside of Chernobyl, where they inevitably have to fight for their lives.
The thug scene really bugged me because it basically didn’t tie into the plot at all. For the most part, the older sibling, Paul, is a guy that seems fun to be around but has a general aversion to almost anything resembling responsibility. About the only thing he is interested in is the opposite sex and comes off as very misogynistic. He stands up against the thugs and puts himself in harms way, but later appears to do so only when he is first able to save himself. Except when it comes to his brother.
When either brother spoke to anyone beside their kin, they were enjoyable. When the younger brother addressed Paul, he whined like a little baby and nagged him about every thing he did. I found myself anxiously awaiting his death so as to end horribly degrading whimpering. Once the little bro gets separated, Paul went from egotistical and humorous to full on craven. Screaming for his brother when everyone else is worried about their survival and turning into the same type of blubbering idiot his brother had been, just instead of whining about what Paul would do, Paul whines about what he didn’t do.
There were two major things that took me out of the film also. Boneheaded character decisions that no one in their right mind would ever do. I don’t mind when a character does what a normal person would and then something bad happens, but it does bug me when something so blatantly batshit crazy stands out that it breaks me from the film. In this, they are looking for someone who they barely knew instead of going to get help for the entire group. When they stumble across the area where he disappeared, there are drag marks of blood about 20 inches wide leading 15 feet down into a dark hallway. I don’t know of anyone who would think it would be a good idea to look any further. Most sane people would have turned their asses around and would seek help elsewhere.
The other item was the wild carnivorous dogs that seemingly only chase them when the plot needed them. They were such a blatant item of temporary need that although ferocious and seemingly starved, they attack only when they couldn’t reach someone. They attack a closed van. They also chase the group back to the town, but once they get there, the dogs just give up and decide they aren’t hungry anymore.
Those character flaws and story hiccups aside, the pace kept the movie interesting. The sound enhanced the atmosphere and both worked to provide a lot of jump scenes. Very different from the other titles that Oren Peli has been associated with. It is nice to see he can do decent horror in a style that is not similar to Paranormal Activity. Those films all use super long shots with a dark atmosphere to keep you intent until something eventually happens, whereas Chernobyl Diaries is more direct and based on jump scenes and tangible creatures. I liked that they were able to keep the tension increased throughout the daylight periods by using semi normal things and heightened the tension by knowing night would bring the unknown.
The thing that amazed me was the film was not down right horrible with the big flaws that it had. It maintained a creepy atmosphere from the time the tour started until the predictable ending of the movie. The concept reminded of another low budget horror film I saw earlier this year, Urban Explorer. While both consisted of extreme tours that go horribly wrong, Chernobyl Diaries was able to build a creepy story around a real world horror that most people are familiar with.
The alternate ending that they so proudly display on the cover art is very similar to the actual ending but took less time. Even though they are different outcomes the overall feeling is the same. The deleted scene and the viral video do little to enhance the viewing experience and serve only to add more to an almost otherwise bare disc. The pride and joy happens to be the mock commercial filmed for the Russian tour guide where he purposely acts like a used car salesman from 80s television commercials. He reads cue cards, has awkward pauses and never looks natural making the retro feel enhance the already comedic subject matter.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars