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.
Americans Chris, his girlfriend Natalie and their friend Amanda travel to Europe on vacation. They meet up with Chris' brother Paul living in Kiev, Ukraine. Chris wants to travel to Moscow to propose to Natalie, but Paul convinces the group to first visit Chernobyl with an extreme tourism guide. They meet the guide Uri and another couple who are also going on the tour. Uri explains that because of the radiation levels he can only take them to Pripyat, a deserted city very near Chernobyl. They travel by van, but are stopped by a military checkpoint that makes them turn back. Not giving up, Uri finds an alternative route to the town. The group spends the day taking photographs and exploring abandoned buildings. Uri becomes nervous and decides it's time to head home. However, the van won't start and they discover the engine was sabotaged. Soon they discover that they are stranded, no one knows they are there and that they are definitely not alone. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
According to Reuters, at least 1 organization has tried to use the film to raise awareness and funding for children of the disaster. Producer Peli is pleased with that but divulges, "I'm not going to pretend that was my main goal - my main goal was to create a movie that people will find entertaining and scary and will enjoy it." See more »
Checkpoint Benivka is on the very edge of Pripyat, and not 20 kilometers from it. See more »
Begins with a promising setup and eerie setting, but quickly falls victim to shoddy camera work and predictable horror tropes.
Chernobyl Diaries a hollow shell of a movie: It has a good premise and the perfect backdrop for a horror flick, but with absolutely no substance. That's the best way I can describe it. The vacant radiation-laden Chernobyl is a wonderfully creepy place for a horror movie to take place. It sets up with a group of friends touring Europe and one of them has the bright idea to go on an "extreme tour" so they make a quick pit stop at Chernobyl. They see an abandoned ferris wheel, they explore the empty buildings, they see the remains of dead animals - it sets up an effectively creepy atmosphere. One of the girls takes a picture and something odd can be seen in a window. Weird, right? Well apparently not weird enough for her to say anything. After they snap a few pictures with the beautifully bleak backdrop of dead trees and industrial smoke stacks, they go back to the tour van. Then the entire bottom of the movie drops.
From there it's cliché city. Cars not starting, people going places they shouldn't, people splitting up when they shouldn't be - everything gets so dumb so quickly it's unreal. You stop caring about the characters after a while because they're making stupid decisions so there's no one to root for. The only character with any personality was the tour guide and he is hardly used, so we're left with six unlikable people struggling to find their way out of the city while getting picked off one by one. It simply isn't interesting. There are no scares and there is little to no suspense. It's just "shhh I hear something..." and then "oh no, something's around the corner" and then they get attacked and it's like 'well yeah, of course that's going to happen'. It's too predictable for it to be scary, and it's too disjointed to make it unsettling. It's just watching and waiting for these characters to die so the movie can end.
The disjointedness mainly comes from the directing. The first shot leads you to believe it's a found-footage movie, but it isn't. It is just shot that way - shaky cam, quick movements, no clear view of anything really. It just makes no sense because we know someone's holding the camera and it acts as a person, but the group of people are oblivious to it so it's like an invisible, mute character that allows us to see through its point-of-view. I don't know why they thought it was a good idea to film it that way because it gets noticeably worse as the movie goes on: The more stressed the characters are, the worst the camera work gets. It's incredibly annoying.
Which leads me to believe the only thing the writers had for Chernobyl Diaries was its premise - a group of kids stranded in Chernobyl. Then they were like "well, now that they're stranded in this creepy, radioactive, vacant city... let's just have them run around and get killed off one by one until the end." It's just lazy writing. The entire third act feels rushed, not to mention the horribly anti-climactic ending. Chernobyl Diaries is a flop; uninspired, boring, and worst of all, completely unscary.
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