June 8, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

(aka Mutant-normal Activity)
Release Date: In Theaters Now.
Country: USA
Written by: Oren Peli.
Directed by: Bradley Parker.
Starring: Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Jesse McCartney, Devin Kelley, Jonathan Sadowski and Olivia Dudley.

Chernobyl Diaries is a movie that wasn't screened for critics in advance, and that's usually a bad sign. Maybe it wasn't screened because it looks and is shot like a Found Footage movie, but isn't. Maybe it's because the characters are unlikable caricatures and do moronic things, which makes this movie anything but endearing or gripping to the audience. Maybe it's because there's not really any sort of payoff to be had here.

In other words, maybe it's because the movie isn't very good at all.

Chernobyl Diaries is about a group of kids traveling across Europe who end up in The Ukraine, and then decide to head to Moscow. Once in Moscow, they decide to take an "extreme tour" of a town called Prypiat, which is in the shadow of Chernobyl; the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters the world has ever seen. I'm not sure why that makes it an "extreme" or even a "fun" destination for tourists, but maybe I'm just boring.

What an awesome tour. What's next, Auschwitz?
They find a tour guide, Uri, who agrees to take the group to Prypiat. After being turned away and denied access to the city by the Ukranian Army, Uri takes them to Prypiat via an abandoned backroad. Of course at this point, all of the sympathy that we could possibly muster for these morons goes right out the window. I mean, they are going out of their way to gain access to a tragically un-fun location, and defying a Military Order (in a foreign country, mind you) to do so, all for the sake of exploiting their morbid curiosity? Whatever comes next, they deserve.

"OMG we don't deserve this!" Yes, you do.
So they tour the city, get attacked by a bear, and when they return to their vehicle, they find its wires have been chewed through (presumably by the bear?) They decide to spend the night in the van, and are harassed by creepy noises, which Uri and one of the kids decide to go investigate. Then, the mutants show up. From here on out, of course, everything goes wrong. Mediocrity ensues.

That was creepy.
The problem with Chernobyl Diaries is that it seems to exist merely to exploit a good setting for a Horror flick. No one in this flick is likable, nothing they do makes any sort of sense, and it's no mystery that they're going to be picked off one by one, until only one of them remains. Doucher characters, abundant cliches', and some weak scares; that about sums it up.

It's also worth noting that a lot of people seemed offended by the filmmakers decision to exploit such a tragedy and turn it into the breeding ground for a story about evil, flesh hungry mutants. Let's face it, lots of things get exploited for the sake of entertainment and capitalism, so we aren't amongst the offended in this case. What's offensive to us is that such an interesting premise was executed so flatly and without much effort or care.

Oren Peli has been successful in his career at making decent, creepy movies on the cheap. Here, his formula doesn't work so well. It feels like a cookie-cutter, by-the-rules Found Footage flick, but it's not Found Footage at all. Like them or not, The Paranormal Activity movies at least deliver the scares and manage to maintain an effective mood. This movie delivers neither. If you haven't seen it yet, wait and rent it on DVD, if you feel you must see it at all.

It was at least nice to see our favorite Norwegian Final Girl, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, in this. She even brought along a few cute friends too...


  1. Hurry up and review Prometheus already. I can't wait to know what you thought of it. Seen it first, apparently. Unforgivable! [smug smile]

  2. You cheeky prick!

    We here in the U.S. have been getting the big movies a week or two later than other parts of the world, which is cool for everyone but us. So you win, good sir.

    I'm definitely curious to hear your take on it... although I'm pretty sure I already know your take on the movie via IMDB :)

  3. You've got to give the morons who made this movie props for one thing: they managed to make Pripyat seem un-scary. Stalker (the movie) was scarier than this, and it a) wasn't a horror movie, and b) wasn't set in the Chernobyl exclusion zone because the Chernobyl disaster hadn't happened yet (perhaps the creepiest thing about it is how it prefigures said disaster), b) wasn't even even really trying to be scary in the traditional horror sense; and of course Stalker (the game) _was_ trying to be scary, and pulled it off superbly.

  4. I have not seen Stalker, Purgatori, but it looks like I need to now.