By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 3 out of 10
Horror movies have been on a legitimate upswing over the last few years, a new, revolutionary found-footage fad has begun to take over, with most films finding success (until The Devil Inside ruined all the fun). It’s only proper that a film comes every now and then that reminds viewers that some horror films should be relegated to the writer’s room and no further. Unfortunately, Chernobyl Diaries quickly becomes one of those films due to a poor effort on all fronts.
When a group of young adults decide to go on an “extreme tour” of the area surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, they get much more than they bargain for when they are attacked by mutants of the incident. They fight time, the mutants and the increasing radiation to get home before it is too late.
I expected a lot more for a film that was written by the man that created the Paranormal Activity trilogy. Chernobyl Diaries is a very haphazardly put together story, pretending to be a found-footage film while using conventional methods to tell the story. The film would have been quite tolerable if there was any backstory whatsoever, or if the film was able to get going in the first 45 minutes. Chernobyl Diaries attempts to build some backstory among the eventual victims of the film, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter whatsoever.
The characters themselves are played by insinuatingly flat actors, although the script is mostly to blame for not giving them anything interesting to say. There are no major headliners in the movie, only stock characters that have had supporting roles in movies that now have their shot at headlining a horror film. Some of the highlights include former pop star Jesse McCartney and the guy that played the tech in Live Free and Die Hard, who play a pair of brothers. There are a few scenes in the film that are able to show the talents of the cast are quickly wasted into a cluster of screams and explicative, as most character development is dealt with swiftly and without much emotion, building the foundation quickly then allowing the poor attempt at horror to take over.
The film manages to do a good job maintaining the creepy, dark atmosphere that has benefited horror movies of late, but the scares are few and far between. The first major scare comes after a nearly 10-minute scene, resulting in a bear running through an abandoned building. Hardly the top-line freak out show that you were expecting. What is even more upsetting is the main creatures that terrorize the travelers are rarely seen and are very hard to see when they do attack. The fact that faceless creatures are the main fuel behind this film also takes away from the fun factor, as usually I find a slow reveal to the identity and look of a creature or enemy to be rewarding for the viewers and Chernobyl Diaries missed the mark on that one.
That said, the final 30 minutes of the movie are easily the strongest part of the film. Once the pedal is hit on the climax of the film, the movie does not stop as the body count skyrockets and the scenery cruelly changes. This all leads to a disjointed but somewhat interestingly satisfying conclusion, although it comes with a twist that is as meaningless and confusing as it is stupid and out-of nowhere.
Chernobyl Diaries had everything going for it initially. But bad cast, even worse writing and an overall sense of needless cheese prevents the film from legitimacy. Chernobyl Diaries is a rental at the absolute best, but even so, expect to be disappointed at the time that you will commit to this half-hearted attempt at horror.