Chernobyl Diaries feels like a tourism promo aimed towards thrill seeking teenagers. As a narrative, it’s weak and flimsy but it’s undeniable that the decrepit remains of Chernobyl create an evocative atmosphere. It’s a shame that all of it is wasted on what amounts to a much lesser version of 28 Days Later.
The story of Americans tormented in a foreign land is a decent launching off point for some frightening visuals, creative gore or biting social commentary (see: Hostel). Other than the deserted city, Chernobyl Diaries does very little to differentiate itself. The actual creatures are some dull mutants lumbering around and there’s the occasional wolf attack, which is the closest the film comes to being visceral. There’s some foreshadowing early on about mutated fishes and the effects of radiation that have underwhelming pay-offs. Even the gore is limited and not all that provocative. It’s also unhelpful that the film is a technical wash. The camera sickenly wobbles around the protagonists in an effort to replicate some sort of cinema vertí feel. This might have worked if the actors were more lively or if the story was more compelling. This is especially bothersome in the film’s third act, which takes places in barely lit corridors. I get the filmmakers trying to create a more realistic look but it’s hard to get invested in proceedings that I literally cannot see.
Moreover, the film’s use of the Chernobyl disaster is disappointingly bare. Other than some brief mentions of the actual incident and some bizarre hinting at government experiments gone awry, the connection is purely visual. The film could take place in any abandoned city and little would change. There is no escalating tension or nail-biting terror. Any scene would work just as well on it’s own. Skip it.
- Rated: R
- Release Date: 5/25/2012
- Directed by: Bradley Parker
- Starring: Devin Kelley, Dimitri Diatchenko, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Nathan Phillips, Olivia Taylor Dudley
- Produced by: Bradley Parker, Brian Witten, Oren Peli
- Written by: Carey Van Dyke, Martin Solibakke, Oren Peli, Shane Van Dyke
- Studio: Alcon Entertainment, Filmnation Entertainment, Oren Peli/Brian Witten Productions