Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chernobyl Diaries

(2012) ***

A group of 4 American youths traveling in Russia find a travel guide to take them past the official checkpoints so they can see the ruined town next to the old Chernobyl nuclear plant. It's been abandoned for years, and no one is allowed in even though, according to Uri their guide, the radiation levels have dropped enough so that it's safe for short visits. An Australian couple also hook up with Uri for the trip, so the group of 6 Western tourists heads out for a fun illegal tour, always a good idea.

The abandoned apartments, schools, and parks of the town are crazy cool and spooky--immediately I was struck by what a great premise this movie has. They explore for the afternoon, and Uri takes them up high in one building to get a look at the cooling towers of the nuke plant, less than a mile away. It's all really good and atmospheric, and the actors are actually quite strong--I didn't recognize any of them, but they're solid.

Cool abandoned Ferris wheel: "Uri, get a group shot!"

At first, the menace towards the tourists seems to come from aggressive and maybe radiated animals who have taken over the abandoned town. A big bear rumbles at them in one apartment, and then a pack of wild dogs attacks and chases them later that evening. They also had stopped by a river on their way into town, and saw some sort of scary nuked out fish. Unfortunately for them, there's more than just animals lurking around in the shadows.

Predictably, they have car trouble and get stuck in town as night falls, and from that point on, things go way south. The problem is that the movie quality also goes south at this point. I think it must have been budgetary, but we never get any real good shots of the mutated cannibals who start picking off the group. The rest of the movie feels more like Blair Witch--lots of fully dark scenes lit only by a bouncing flashlight that never really reveals too much. They run around in tunnels between buildings for a half hour or so as the group dwindles, but it's oddly not terrifying. We get teased that they're being chased towards some sort of lair, but it never really comes. Actually, they DO arrive at the lair, but it's so dark you can't see anything, so when the guy says, "this must be where they've been living," we're clueless as to why he would say that. It just looks like every other big dark cluttered room they've just run through.
It ends with 30 minutes of this.

Still, this was overall decent fun--pretty well acted indie horror flick.


Johnny Sweatpants said...

Excellent review and you're right - that is one awesome premise. It's a shame they didn't nail it but I still intend to catch it at some point. As I recall JPX wasn't as kind towards it as you were but the link wasn't on the Monster List.

Catfreeek said...

I keep meaning to watch this just for the glimpse at Chernobyl. Good review.

JPX said...

The link worked for me - we both gave it three stars!

Octopunk said...

It's linked off of the movie title instead of JPX's name.

This is an excellent premise and I don't have to worry about what I would do because I would never visit an abandoned Russian industrustrial town anyway.

"like Blair Witch is one of the worst things I can hear about a movie.

DCD said...

Bummer it didn't pan out. I remember thinking this looked really good, still my check it out....someday.

AC said...

not for me. needs to be either better or worse than 3 stars to make the queue.