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Chernobyl Diaries
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Chernobyl Diaries – Review


American college-boy Chris (Jesse McCartney) arrives in Kiev to visit his brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), bringing with him his girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley) and friend Amanda (Devin Kelley).
Chris is planning to propose to Natalie during a group trip to Moscow, but Paul has other ideas, after meeting extreme tour-guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko).
Paul suggests a trip to Chernobyl instead; the girls are up for an adventure, so Chris reluctantly agrees to join them.
The group are joined by hippy couple Zoe (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and Michael (Nathan Phillips) before they set off in Uri’s clapped out old minibus for Pripyat – the town abandoned by its residents when the nearby Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded, more than twenty five years earlier.
As they start to explore the eerie silence of the ghost town, they start to suspect they are not alone.


As with another of this week’s releases, The Five-Year Engagement, Chernobyl Diaries is being marketed using the title of another film, as if the distributors don’t have much confidence in their product. And as The Five-Year Engagement failed to match the originality and enjoyment of Bridesmaids, Chernobyl Diaries is has none of the spark that made Paranormal Activity a hit to spawn too many sequels.
Oren Peli, who – in the words of the poster “created” Paranomal Activity – came up with the story for this one, co-wrote the script and produced it.
He got off to a great start – what a fantastic idea – twenty five years after the world’s worst nuclear disaster, a group of foolhardy tourists pay what’s meant to be a short visit to the neighbouring ghost town, but the trip doesn’t go to plan.
It starts of by ticking all the right boxes; 1. Introduce the horror fodder – a clean-cut hero and his sweet girlfriend, his wild and crazy brother, an adventurous brunette; 2. Set up a slightly implausible, but acceptable premise – Chris wants to go to Moscow, but Paul insists on visiting Chernobyl instead; 3. Add another two backpacking tourists that we haven’t had time to get to know so we won’t care if they get knocked off quickly; 4. Introduce peril – they realise they’re not alone and worse, that they can’t escape.
But suddenly, the narrative explodes into a hopeless mess and the film crumbles to dust, as quickly as reactor number 4 at Chernobyl.
Chief among the problems is the cliched way the tension unfolds; quiet moments of apprehension broken by sudden screams, without revealing why.
This all gives rise to a degree of excitement and you’ll jump out of your seat from time to time. You’ll even join the group as they worry about how they’ll get away.
The idea of hiding the antagonist can be an effective way of building tension, but clues should be dropped and catharsis should be provided.
What’s stalking our group? Wild bears? Vicious dogs mutated over the generations by the fallout of radioactivity? Bald, cave-dwelling cannibals?
This is the one question the film sets up from the moment the peril emerges and while it is right that the audience should be teased, there must be a pay off, or any time and thought invested in the film is wasted and you’ll feel cheated.
This film is all set up and no pay-off. It’s like a joke without a punchline. You can enjoy the telling, but you’ll be launching at it, not with it.
Oh – and there are no diaries. Following in the trend of the pactless The Pact, horror producers are losing their golden touch when it comes to their titles.

Opens 22 June 2012



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