Director: Bradley Parker
Starring: Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski and Olivia Dudley
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
The plot of Chernobyl Diaries focuses on two brothers, one of whom intends to engage to his girlfriend and one of whom intends to woo her friend. One day, en route to Moscow, they are convinced into taking an ‘extreme tourism’ tour into the small, now abandoned town which housed the workers and the families of Chernobyl. However when stranded there overnight, our group of heroes learn that the place might not be abandoned after all…
The first twenty minutes of Chernobyl Diaries are very light on horror and in a movie of this kind that normally translates to, the first twenty minutes of this movie are boring and terrible, however this is not the case. I found myself surprisingly engaged by these characters and unlike other characters within this genre, they are not unbelievably annoying and you are not calling for their deaths within the first thirty seconds of their screen time. The dialogue is believable and the performances competent. Believable, competent and not annoying may seem like faint praise, but in a film of this kind, it is rather hyperbolic praise.
When the film moves into its titular setting, there is lots of potential for plenty of atmospheric fun. However here is where it becomes apparent it is a debut feature and frustrations may potentially begin to surface. Bradley Parker never makes full use of the setting he has been gifted. There are endless possibilities and I couldn’t help but think what a filmmaker like Kubrick could have done with this. Yes, Chernobyl Diaries made me think of Stanley Kubrick. This is a film that could have had Shining-esque moments of eeriness. At no point is there a 28 Days Later moment, where a character is completely on their own, the sound nonexistent and their surroundings completely deserted. The characters travel in groups the whole time and we, as an audience never feel the sense of isolation and abandonment that we arguably should have.
For a while the film skates along purely on the potential of its concept, with your dreams of a more accomplished realization coupled with the passably entertaining effort in front of you, resulting in a maintaining of your interest. However the film then slowly but surely clicks into a more conventional horror gear and while these characters, as well as being less annoying, are less dumb than many other horror movie characters, there is still the inescapable feeling of clichés being ticked rather than new ground being covered, which is happening literally rather than metaphorically.
There are some moments of tension and Bradley Parker does do a good job with misdirection and keeping the audience on their toes in regards to the nature of what is causing all of this horror. Such flashes coupled with the overall efficient cinematography suggest that while not fully realizing the potential of films yet, Parker may do in the future, when he has fully realized his as a director.
However ultimately the pacing sags and the film concurrently runs out of and presents its ideas. I was ready for the film to end by the hour mark (It is just over eighty minutes long) and it surprisingly runs out of steam and lost my interest at the point were technically the most was happening. It all comes to a rather literal point and while there is a, akin to Silent House and The Pact, refreshing lack of blood, I would have preferred the reveal to be more of a psychological nature. The latter moments do however provide some effective jump scares, interesting imagery and a couple of moments that make you think of how terrified you would be in the same situation.
Ultimately, I enjoyed watching Chernobyl Diaries due to its relatively believable and likable characters as well as its unique concept and location. It maintains interest for the majority of its running time and Parker showcases a couple of neat tricks of misdirection to suggest that in time he could be the director this film needed. However the film ultimately isn’t scary enough and doesn’t fulfill the promise of its potential, many looking for a scare may also find themselves disappointed by the antagonists lack of blood thirst and more elusive and unexplained nature.
This is far better than the 20% on Rotten Tomatoes suggests, yet not good enough to result in a full recommendation. This is a film which will find a suitable and comfortable home on obscure channels, late at night, where the film can be enjoyed for its strengths and instigate much thought regarding its flaws. Hopefully years down the line, when Bradley Parker is the horror filmmaker that moments in this film suggest he could become, that he comes back and gives this concept the film it deserves.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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