Rental Review - Chernobyl Diaries

Chernobyl Diaries (2012), R, 86 minutes - The trailer for Chernobyl Diaries caught the eye of my wife and I a couple of years ago when the film was released. It stated that this film about a group of tourists and their 'extreme' guide venturing into the abandoned city of Pripyat (former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor) was co-written by Oren Peli (writer/director of Paranormal Activity and creator of television series The River) and since we've enjoyed most of his other work (guilty pleasure, sue me), we thought we'd give it a shot via NetFlix.

Chris (Jesse McCartney), his girlfriend Zoe (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), and her friend Amanda (Devin Kelley) are visiting Chris's brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) during a trip across Europe. Paul switches plans on the group and instead of a day trip to Moscow, they find themselves on their way towards the Chernobyl ruins along with fellow tourists Michael (Nathan Phillips) and Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley) under the watch of 'extreme' tour guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko). As questionable as heading towards the site of the world's largest nuclear accident sounds, things seem on the up and up until Uri is unable to get clearance to pass the checkpoint on the outskirts of Pripyat. At this point the group is split as to whether they feel it is ok to continue or if they should call it quits. Uri and Paul are able to talk the rest of the group into moving on and Uri finds another, unmanned way into the city. Between the perimeter security and the supposed abandoned nature of the city, there seems to be something else roaming the area besides stray wildlife. As with most horror/thriller flicks, questionable and thoughtless decisions are made and the body count begins to pile up.

I must admit, I was a little disappointed in Chernobyl Diaries.  The premise had so much potential.  There are a handful of jumpy moments, but for the most part there's a bunch of suspense built up without enough payoff. If you like Oren Peli's other work you'll probably find a mild amount of entertainment in this film (I should take a moment to reiterate that Peli is a co-writer on this film, it was directed by Bradley Parker). Otherwise, there are a number of other thriller/horror flicks more worthy of your time.  Further thoughts on Chernobyl Diaries' missed opportunities appear in the spoiler section below.


- I think that the story would have worked better if the entire group had planned and been gung-ho for the extreme tour.  Like it was their 'thing' and had legally (or illegally) 'toured' a number of questionable places.  I had a hard time getting behind the fact that 3 of the 4 found the Chernobyl idea questionable and resisted the idea, but all of them allowed Paul to pressure them into the tour.  I also fee like the mystery of what was going on was drawn out too long.  Much more interesting things could have been done with the discovery of the lab other than the final survivor being offed.

- The one thing that bothered me more than Chris, Zoe, and Amanda giving in to Paul's plans so easily was the fact that Michael and Natalie show up at Uri's tour storefront with legitimate backpacking gear.  When they all head out, they are shown loading it into the back of Uri's old military vehicle.  When Paul, Amanda, Michael and Natalie leave to get help, knowing that they have a pretty good hike back to the closest checkpoint, they leave that equipment behind!  One could argue that they wanted to leave something behind for Chris and Zoe, but they still could have/should have taken one of the backpacks.


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