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Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Cover art:

reviews/chernoss.jpg

Chernobyl DiariesStarring Olivia Dudley, Devin Kelley, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips, Jonathan Sadowski, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Dimitri Diatchenko

Directed by Brad Parker


How many times has this happened to you: You’re sitting there having a great time with your friends when all of a sudden one of them brings up an idea that sounds great on paper but could potentially lead to disaster in reality. Nine times out of ten you’ll yield to peer pressure and throw your common sense to the wind. Chernobyl Diaries is a perfect example of why, no matter what, you should never let yourself be talked into anything.

While visiting his brother, Paul (Sadowski), in Russia, Chris (McCartney), his girlfriend, and her best friend let Paul talk them into visiting the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. They hook up with their extreme tour guide, Uri (a scene stealing Diatchenko), and head out with another couple for a little adventure. An adventure that as you may have already guessed turns life threatening in a hurry. Story-wise that’s all you need to know going in, but there’s a lot more to the plot that we’ll refrain from discussing in the interest of preventing spoilers.

Chernobyl Diaries does a lot of things right. It’s especially great at building suspense while giving the viewer a feeling of truly being cut off from the outside world. There are moments in which you’ll really feel as if you’re on this journey with the characters thanks to some really smart decisions and direction from Brad Parker. There are things you may not even realize about the way the flick has been filmed that totally add to the experience. For example, once our characters get into the van, just about every shot takes place inside of the vehicle. Everything is close and confined, immediately conjuring the need for a little elbow room. When they get out of the van after arriving to the site, even though the ruined city is quite expansive, the feeling of isolation weighs down on you like a ton of bricks. Sometimes you will feel so confined and claustrophobic even the most jaded of viewers will find themselves becoming a bit anxious.

Let’s be clear; this is not a movie that’s going to hit you a mile a minute with cheap scares and the usual blah blah blah, nor does it try to be. It takes its time bringing on the terror, but there’s always enough happening to keep you thoroughly enthralled with all of the goings on, and trust us; when the shit hits the fan, it really hits the fan. All of the actors do a very believable job of bringing both their characters and their situation to life, and other than deciding to go to this godforsaken place itself, nobody does anything that’s eye-rollingly stupid.

There are moments within the flick that are truly scary as hell, but many have been hampered by the numerous trailers and TV spots. How I wish I hadn’t seen some of the stuff that I did beforehand! One thing is certain: The less you know about Chernobyl Diaries, the better. It’s certainly not a flawless film as there is a bit of a “been there/done that” type feeling to it at times and a little too much shaky-cam toward the end, but thus far it stands out amongst the crowd as one of the most rock-solid horror offerings of the year.

If you’re on the lookout for cheap thrills, mindless entertainment, and your definition of horror is anything that is riddled with a million jump scares and quick cuts, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a spooky way to kick off the summer movie season, Chernobyl Diaries more than fits the bill.

3 1/2 out of 5

Discuss Chernobyl Diaries in the comments section below.

Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

26 Comments

  1. Not seen this myself, and I must disclaim my brother has generally terrible taste in movies, but he does routinely borrow DVDs from my collection and has been exposed to everything from Cannibal Holocaust to Suspiria to Martyrs, wading through the worst Italy, France and Japan have had to throw at him. Yet he came back from seeing this at the cinema a couple of weeks back stating coldly that this movie had genuinely disturbed him. The only other time I’ve heard him say that is after he saw my uncut copy of The Beyond.

    I can’t get into any arguments about the quality of the movie, but it must be doing SOMETHING right to affect him like that.

  2. Ehhhhh… I don’t think the movie is TERRIBLE (and I don’t even understand the absolute hatred a lot are giving it), but it has some serious issues. The camerawork is obnoxious, the kills are all offscreen, and you never ONCE see the mutants full-on. I’d be ok with the slow pacing and the quick glimpses if it had a better third act. If it had a really intense final confrontation or something, I’d like it a lot more. Unfortunately, there’s just nothing worth remembering.

  3. Someone please tell me that Oren Peli being a writer/producer has nothing to do with this being called a “solid” flick that’s only “a bit” of been there/done that. There’s a reason why this is 26% shit on Rotten Tomatoes, less than BOTH Battleship and Dark Shadows.

    Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Four characters stupidly decide to go somewhere they shouldn’t. Two are brothers and one always gets the good bro in trouble saying clever dialogue like “It’s a hazard to have you as my brother”. The good bro reveals plans to get married during the trip and shows the ring strictly as the easiest way to elicit sympathy from the audience. Two more barely written characters are introduced last second only for the purpose of an increased body count. Eventually, the car doesn’t start, the tour guide dies/disappears, the righteous good bro gets injured and can’t be moved, and the other bro vows to make amends for always putting him in harm’s way. One by one they run around screaming before eventually falling victim to unseen assailants.

    At no time do you see what the nuclear mutants look like. Not ONE single character dies on screen at the hands of one of these mutants. You never find out what happened to the “good” bro. The other bro’s journey of redemption ends with a bullet to the chest. The nuclear reactor is shown to be several miles away yet they find underground tunnels that lead them almost immediately into the heart of the reactors. The mutants are still highly functioning but these characters immediately become burned and blind from 25 year old exposed areas. The government allows tourism even though there’s evidence all over that mutants are being kept alive and tested on which is supposed to be top secret. You would THINK the government would have SEALED UP the underground tunnels leading right to ground zero, especially since they WORK in there on the mutants and keep them locked up…

    The entire 2nd half is mindless entertainment, jump scares, and quick cuts…I have no idea why it’s being portrayed as anything but. There’s a cheap CGI bear running through the top floor of an apartment building and the tour guide pretending to be attacked by something in the water to get a cheap reaction for Christ’s sake…

  4. hmmmm I dont know guys, I want to see this but I worry that it will be disappointing in the fact that you never see the mutants nor do you actually see the kills, Creepy is here praising the film to high Heaven but Kiddcapone is saying you never see the mutants nor do you see any of the kills which is exactly what I am worried about.
    just tell me guys (from all of you who saw it already) is this film going to be worth a 5$ tuesday matinee deal?

    • It’s always amusing when a 3.5 out of five is considered praising to high heaven. It’s a solid flick. Nothing more, nothing less.

        • All the horror sites were pretty much in line with my review. Around a 3.5. I always say when it comes to what’s good and what’s not, screw word of mouth, no one will know what you will like more than you do.

      • Here’s what I think when I hear a star (knife) rating.
        1-Terrible
        2-Forgettable, Below Average
        3-Good
        4-Excellent
        5-All-Time Classic
        Of course, I’ve learned to mentally subtract some knives from some of the reviewers scores here :)

  5. I know it’s an obvious joke, but judging from the trailer alone, they really should have called this one Paranormal Radioactivity.

  6. What the fuck !?!?! *This will contain spoilers*

    Did we see the same movie? Chernobyl Diaries is even WORSE than The Devil Inside. It was a whole bunch of NOTHING. Notta. Zero substance. Zero scares. Complete and utter garbage. The entire theater moaned with disbelief when the end credits began to roll. We’ve all been suckered AGAIN by something that untalented hack Oren Peli touched.

    This is nothing more than Chernobyl Has Eyes. Except in this radiation caused mutant movie, there’s virtually NO GORE. No mutant characters besides faceless shadows. No payoff kill with ANY character. The only reason it was Rated R is because of how many times they used the word FUCK during the movie. It is a piece of lifeless bullshit. It DIDN’T have cheap scares? WHAT !?!?!?! That’s ALL it had. The biggest jump scare was a fucking giant bear running through the apartment building never to be seen again. There was NO legit scares. It was all loud bangs.

    Here’s the lame kill list: Russian tour guide killed off screen, then (maybe) eaten off screen. Young brother gets leg chewed by rabid dogs, disappears never to be seen again. Young brother’s girlfriend, dragged off but left to die by radiation. Older brother gets shot dead. Older brother’s love interest, left to die in predictable fashion with mutants. Token extra victim guy, left trapped behind a door never to be seen again. Token extra victim girl, dragged down ladder by facelss mutant mob to disappear into the dark.

    I’m stumped as what there is to like besides the awesome visual location. That was it. It didn’t have cool looking killers. It didn’t have fun kills. You know exactly how it will end once the Russians showed up. It was EXTREMELY BEEN THERE-DONE THAT right from the start. It didn’t add ANYTHING new that hasn’t been seen before from any low budget horror flick. I didn’t feel ANY suspense. It was so boring ho-hum, you KNOW these assholes are going to run around until they disappear one by one. Once the formula is established, you just sit there waiting for it to happen. And when it does, not one time does it end with some satisfying payoff.

    Fuck Chernobyl Diaries. Fuck Oren Peli. And sorry Steve, Fuck this review.

    Chernobyl Diaries – 1/5.

    You’ve all been warned. Stay away. This will be out of theaters in 3 weeks. Maybe 4, with two showtimes a day on the very last screen.

    • Given your frequent loathing of more subtle horror flicks, I kind of expected you to hate this as well. LOL

      • Not necessarily true, I did recently enjoy The Woman in Black. This was just horrible. We’ve already had mutants from The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn, but in those films, you actually SEE the mutants and the kills are fun. Here’s a recycled storyline that adds NOTHING and doesn’t stand out on it’s own for ANYTHING. It’s just people running around getting picked off one-by-one all off-screen with no gore or suspense.

        The Russian guy was taking tours of the place for 5 years and he never once saw or heard these mutants being experimented on? Why would they even let them in for past visits if they had something to hide? Why even keep radiated mutants alive? They escaped and the military waited several days to retake the city? Why didn’t the mutants just attack and eat them? If they didn’t want them for food, which I guess they didn’t, why waste time toying with them? Bored?

        Just plain old fucking stupidity at it’s worst.

        • Apples and oranges! I said frequent not always. Every time you go to a movie with the name Oren Peli attached to it you come here and spout how terrible it is. You’re like old faithful! ;)

          • Same can be said in your direction, everything that has Oren Peli attached to it and you’re slurping the fuck out of it like you’re on the Peli payroll.

            For the record, I was on here praising PA3. I thought that was the best of the series. And I loved Insidious. His last two abortions, this piece of shit and the show The River sucked beyond all recognition.

            I guarantee, once more people make the same mistake I did and watch it, you’re going to be flooded with responses similar to the Devil Inside review…

          • Dude, to each his own. I dig some movies that you hate. Big deal! LOL

          • Lol…I know, I’m just having some fun with ya…it just amuses me when I think back of all your bitching about Fright Night when they didn’t put up any police tape around the destroyed house and then similar movies like this piece of garbage you automatically give a pass to all the nonsensical bullshit.

            Seriously, how many horror flicks have you seen with the car not starting, one person with an injured leg that can’t be moved, and they get picked off one-by-one? Except this fucker had virtually no gore, zero scares, everything happens off-screen, you never get a good look at ANY of the killers, and the ending is shitty/uber-predictable.

            I’m awaiting other opinions, cause this one is another headscratcher my friend…

  7. Great review…you described the movie how I hoped ti would be. Love the films that make you stress out in anticipation…and can be scary..

    • Vague is infinitely better than the usual spoiler filled reviews most reviewers post. Half the time they tell you so much you feel like you’ve already seen the movie.

        • We try really hard not to spoil movies in our reviews, it’s good to know it’s appreciated and that I can go into the Holiday weekend without getting cut! ;) LOL

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