Say "nuclear fallout"
Picture this, what I think happened at the brainstorming session for a movie pitch for Chernobyl Diaries: “So then, I think we should do a horror. No, wait...a horror, right, with young twenty-something attractive Americans as the protagonists, who all get in a pickle after having the time of the lives. They are then picked off in a mostly predictable order by some kid of evil, undetermined force. Then we are left with...well, who knows, perhaps they do all survive; or maybe only one of them? One of the women, perhaps? The woman who is the most, like, independent and strong, right? Or, wait, maybe they all die? That will be original and upbeat and will in no way render the whole film pointless. But, yeah, who knows, they probably all survive. Anyway, maybe this all has been done before… Well, it is set in Chernobyl, twenty-six years after the nuclear power plant disaster of 1986. No other run of the mill horrors have been set there, so the film totally has legs.”
Due to the fact that sarcasm is apparently the lowest form of wit, I’ll now give the synopsis in a more serious fashion. Four friends Chris (Jesse McCarthy), Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), Natalie (Olivia Dudley) and Amanda (Devin Kelley) have travelled Europe and decide that visiting Chernobyl while in the Ukraine would be pretty cool. Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) - an ex-special forces, and seemingly lovely, soldier - is their extreme tour guide. With two more suckers, the newly in love Zoe and Michael, they embark on what is advertised as a rather original tourist destination.
Chernobyl Diaries makes out that going to Chernobyl is somewhat of a ramshackle tourist affair, obviously to make it all seem a bit scarier. However, it is now a valid, real life tourist attraction; albeit one in which you have to sign a waiver in case you develop radiation symptoms after visiting. Filmed in Serbia and Hungary, certain famous settings from Chernobyl – such as the worker’s Pripyat flats and yellow ferris wheel - are recreated, rather than shot on location. This is because the radiation levels are still so high that the workers responsible for rebuilding the sarcophagus (the new casing that will replace the original one from 1986) are only allowed to work five hours a day for one month before taking fifteen days of rest. Ukrainian officials estimate the area will not be safe for human life again for another twenty thousand years. But, yeah, wind farms are shit.
Oren Peli, of Paranormal Activity fame, co-wrote with Carey and Shane Van Dyke (the latter of whom wrote and directed the quite unbelievable concept of Titanic II) and the reader no doubt got the gist of the screenplay’s quality from the review’s first paragraph. After being part of the visual effects team on films such as Fight Club and Let Me In, this is Bradley Parker’s first directional effort and he does a decent job to create some way likable characters and a decent amount of tension. But, really, it has all been seen before. Chernobyl Diaries, despite the original setting, offers nothing new to the horror genre and is just another waste of everyone’s time. Insert humorous contamination joke here.
DVD extras include an alternate ending that somehow manages to be worse than the ending chosen for the movie; one short and barely interesting deleted scene; a lazily put together Chernobyl Conspiracy Viral Video; a humorous infomercial for Uri’s Extreme Tours; and the cinematic trailer.
Chernobyl Diaries is released on DVD through STUDIOCANAL on Monday 22 October.