I don’t expect much in horror movies, its best not too as I will inevitably end up disappointed. In fact it’s often the best approach to go in expecting something terrible as it can only improve then. I enjoy most of the horror movies I see one or another, I’m easy to please. Be it a few scenes or the entire movie I will find a saving grace. On the other hand if I want every horror movie to have the kind of brains that Seven did then I will go & watch Seven. If I want a zombie movie that laughs at consumerism then I will watch Dawn of the Dead (original). If I wanted tits & torture I will watch Hostel. You get the picture…
I only expect horror movies to at least try & adhere to their descriptions. If something is described as a ‘smart & tense’ horror I expect it to buck the norm & not have characters that, oh I don’t know, split up when being hunted by killer mutant dudes.
Anyway, I will watch anything if it has the horror tag next to it which is why I started watching Chernobyl Diaries last night. Now before we go on I must tell you that I find the Chernobyl incident fascinating & that a horror movie set there was a good move. It had bucket loads of potential….think about it. Apartments left as they were on that fateful day, kid’s toys strewn about a playground that had to be abandoned & the reactors themselves. Amazing setting…..I hated the movie in the end.
So the story goes like this, some guy (call him Dead Guy A), his girl (Dead Girl A) & their girl-friend (Dead Girl B) are on holiday. They have stopped in Kiev to meet Guy A’s older brother (Dead Guy A’s brother) before heading onto Moscow. After a night out dead guy A’s brother comes up with the great idea of taking an ‘extreme tourism’ trip before going onto Moscow. He knows a guy (we will call him dead Russian army guy) who takes groups into the Chernobyl, specifically the local town, Pripyat.
Dead guy A puts up a limp argument about not going that gets shot down at every corner (even by his girl – cheers for the support love) & eventually agrees. You see dead Russian army guy is ex-soldier so knows the area well, he has been doing these trips for 5 years.
Up to this point I totally bought into it because if I was there & I got the chance to go on an ‘extreme tourist’ trip to Chernobyl I would. I might have some reservations about the legality/radiation levels but I would be up for it. The fascination of the area is what interests our group of dead meat & soon they are ready to go…but what’s this? 2 new characters? Oh so our four-some of fodder wasn’t enough here are some Australian backpackers (lets call them dead Aussie couple) to join the incoming slaughter. Back story? Who cares! They will be dead soon enough.
So off they go in dead Russian army guy’s truck. Everyone is jovial & very excited for what they might see. Now listen up kids, The Disc has some advice for you. If you are going on a trip into a nuclear disaster zone & you get stopped at a checkpoint by the army who say you can’t go in as they are running ‘maintenance’. Shrug your shoulders & walk away, shit happens. Do not go in a secret backdoor entrance anyway. Now nobody knows you’re there….
The next 15 minutes are made up of the group wandering the streets of Pripyat. It’s the last good 15 minutes of the film & some of the shots are eerie. There is a lot of potential wasted for things seen in the distance (even if it’s by us watching only) or other spooky signs. However the radioactive bear scene was very good, I laughed even though I wasn’t supposed too.
One of the things the Chernobyl disaster seems to have caused in Pripyat is less daytime. In the film it is highlighted several times that they are leaving in the morning to go to the site, it is not far away & they will be there for 2 hours only. Next thing you know its getting dark & its time to leave. Oh but what now? The truck won’t start. Why? Someone has chewed through the wires! What to do? What to do? Walk? Good idea but instead we will sit in the truck all night? Wait, what? Didn’t dead Russian army guy say it wasn’t safe to stay that long because of the radiation? Fuck it, it doesn’t matter. This cramped truck will shield us from radiation oh & while we are at lets leave the lights on & act really surprised when the battery dies.
So dead Russian guy dies when after hearing noises he goes out to investigate with dead guy A. The last we hear of him is gunshots & dead guy A coming back to the truck in a panic & fucked up leg. “What did this to you?” they all scream, his sensible reply is “there are too many”. At no point do any of the other future dead guys & girls ask him directly what he means by that. Instead they speculate that he must mean wild dogs…just ask him. “Hey you, your mashed up leg. What happened? Was it dogs or was it radioactive freaks that have gained super-strength?”.
Yes ladies & gentlemen our tourists are being attacked by the current population of Pripyat & like all good horror movies you can barely see them. Now this is where I got mad at the film…leading up to this point the movie had gone to great lengths to make itself convincing, to make it seem like its could be real. Now they want me to believe that the radiation from the disaster would not have given any permanent inhabitants cancer thus wrecking their bodies, making them weak & pretty much dead. Not these radioactive freaks, this lot are mini-hulks carrying off grown men & dragging fighting women to their deaths.
In fact this is worsened by the ending sequence when are final 2 survivors (dead guy A’s soon to be dead brother & dead –girl-friend) end up inside the reactor that caused the problem. The radiation is so strong that it burns their skin & blinds the man. Yet the freaks have been living there…wait, what?
Anyway they get out & run into the army who promptly shoot the man because he wouldn’t shut up. The girl wakes up in a hospital bed being wheeled down a shifty looking corridor by shift looking scientists. Now here is another lesson girls & boys, if a shifty looking scientist asks you “does anyone else know you are here?” you answer “yes, my entire family, friends, neighbours etc”. You do not say…”No”.
The film ends with her being thrown into a cell where she gets attacked by the radioactive freaks. I know what you are thinking….
So questions…were the radioactive freaks experiments being kept at the site? That would account for the checkpoint refusal at the beginning but why would they be roaming free around the site? Why would there be no army around to keep an eye on things? Cameras? The place is abandoned. Also dead Russian guy says he has been doing the trips for 5 years & this is the first time in goes wrong? He has been going there & not once has he seen anything?
At first I thought he was going to be the facilitator, you know, picking up tourists & leading them to their deaths for whatever reason but no, in fact he gets killed off screen. For being ex-military these radioactive freaks sure take him down.
The radioactive freaks take the time to destroy the truck & use a little girl mannequin to distract the group one moment & at others just run at them screaming & clawing.
Oh & considering 2 of them are brothers, the lack of love is pretty harsh & doesn’t tally with the start of the movie where they seem like the best of friends. When dead guy A goes missing, dead guy A’s brother wants to go look for him but with the most minimal of pushing he agrees to go get help. Somehow he is also surprised when his brother turns up dead later on….
You know how if you were running down a hallway & you came to a door you might close it behind you, right? Well these guys close it on each other. That would be fine if it was some nasty way of surviving (you know, kill her giving me time to get away) but it’s not. They do, she hides for a bit in the dark before making her way to the door which they open for her. I think I actually face-palmed for real when one of the characters decided to rest at the top of the stairs into a dark subway.
Oh & the title part of it….diaries? The first minute of the film is done in self-camera mode but after that its just a normal film. I thought it was going to be found-footage style ala Blair Witch. While hardly original it would have been better for it.
So much of being smart huh? Possibly the dumbest movie characters I have seen since Friday the 13th. As for tense? Almost but the sheer idiocy of the characters & disbelief over the freaks make it laughable. For me a tense moment should come from a situation that I think I could end up in. This is not the case in Chernobyl Diaries.
Man, it had potential. The setting is perfect & the story was set up well. Stupid characters, poor bad-guys, jump scares & too many plot-holes ruin it. Avoid.