[Chernobyl Diaries]
Synopsis:A group of friends become stranded in an eerie and desolate city. Years before in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, nature has begun to reclaim everything. As the sun sets on this radioactive ghost town, inhuman cries cut through the night air. It seems they are not alone.

Cast:Jonathan Sadowski, Jesse McCartney, Devin Kelley, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Dimitry Diatchenko.

My Thoughts:Eh, well. They tried.

Review:"Chernobyl Diaries" is another found-footage POV'esque horror film from "Paranormal Activity" director Oren Peli. This time around, demons and boogity-boos aren't the culprit. Instead...it's...THE RUSSIANS! "Gasp"! The pic begins when a group of friends meet up in Moscow. They decide to hook up with a guy who can take them on a tour of Chernobyl. An area of Russia that became desolate and empty after a nuclear disaster many years ago. Any good genre fan knows that young people + Europe + touring place they ain't got no business visiting ='s bad news for them.

So you can already see where this movie is headed. Their tour is derailed however, when the guards at the Chernobyl site refused to allow them entry. But their Russia guide Yuri (that's not cliche is it?)...decides to spurn the rules, and take them onto the site through a back entrance. Upon their arrival, they do the usual walking around, snapping photos, chatting amongst themselves, etc. But pretty soon, night begins to fall. And some "folks"...come out to play.

And they don't like "tourists". Honestly, this film could be or should be considered boring as hell. It doesn't scare or creep out the viewer in the least. For the opening 15 minutes or so. But the movie lacks sound score, or music. Usual and normal in found footage genre fare. So there's a certain eerieness and creep factor that builds very slowly as the movie progresses. And once the group arrives at Chernobyl, the site. You feel that things are going to slowly get dark and horrible for them. It's a slow process though.

I mean, other than a giant Russian Bear nearly eating them for lunch, there's not much "scares" in the pics early moments. Although damn, that was one big effing bear! It would've been nice if this movie had given hints. You know, like when our main characters visit a strange place. We get camera-view of someone watching them from afar? This movie needed some of those scenes. Especially because the characters are not entertaining or interesting enough to carry this movie in most moments. Yuri the hulking ex-Russian special forces tour guide is a lot more interesting than any of these young people are.

And as a character, you perhaps wonder if he's a tour guide for real. Or if there's more "sinister" motives rolling around in that head of his. So Yuri manages to keep the viewer intrigued throughout the films early moments. But when things eventually turn for the worse, "Chernobyl Diaries" has a hard time making the adjustment. And that's why it's such a weak movie. I didn't except carnage and chaos right at the very beginning. Especially being this is an Oren Peli film.
And that's just not his style of filmmaking. But when we finally do discover more hidden secrets about Chernobyl, and the "people"...who lurk within it. I expected the movie to kick into a whole new gear. Second or third at least! But instead, it kind of just glides somewhat. The sense of sheer terror seen in Peli's "Paranormal Activity", when it got to the "juicy parts". Doesn't exist here. Instead, it's replaced by yelling, screaming, people running around, and not much of anything genuinely scary or terrifying. Nor does the movie establish a pure villain for these kids to encounter once the tour takes a bizarre turn.

In the form of Yuri disappearing after the group are attacked by someone or something. No "threat"...is established here. And the director expects us to believe that a huge guy like Yuri, could be possible slaughtered by these mysterious "residents" of Chernobyl. Yet, these teenagers are just too much to handle? So much in fact that they won't even attack them for like, the entire third act? Honestly, the only scary thing about "Chernobyl Diaries"...were the wild dogs the group kept encountering. And for the record, in a movie where people are stranded at a site filled with nuclear radiation...it wouldn't help to mutate a few of the animals.

Just to add to the "scare factor" of the movie. Sure, we get mutated fish. But in all honesty, unless these fish can walk on land? Who cares really? The dogs could've been far scarier had they been mutated or given special abilities due to the radiation in the air in and around the Chernobyl site. But I got the feeling that this movie was just supposed to capitalize on the found-footage-POV style fad that is sweeping our genre. Chernobyl, as a real-life disaster that occurred years ago. And as a part of World History, was just a good, creepy basis for a story like this. The director never really intended to terrify the audience. As much as he intended to fake them out and raise their hair a little bit. For me, I wasn't very impressed.

I wasn't super bored either though. The final act was quite strong, as the remaining kids become trapped inside an underground reactor, and are being chased/pursued by "something". But again, too much mystery and not enough payoff for a film that had some golden opportunities to really be disturbing, terrifying, and overall chilling. In the end, "Chernobyl Diaries" doesn't use enough of its tools to its advantage. It falls flat in most areas, while just being a "tease" in others.

THE GOOD:The idea of a horror movie using the Russian Chernobyl site/incident as it's catalyst was a great idea. The third act was modestly-intense. Delivering a few chills here and there. The bear scene was funny and fulfilled its purpose of a cheap scare.

THE BAD:The envelope isn't pushed enough here. Lots of material was left hanging. And perhaps with a bigger budget and reworked script, could've been used to make the movie very scary. Also the cast. Not sure if Jonathan Sadowski was right for the lead in this movie. I just wasn't moved by his performance. And at times, he was annoying.

OVERALL:Two stars out of four.

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