‘Chernobyl Diaries’ fails to break new ground

Extreme tourism, it’s not just a hobby it’s a way of life. What are extreme tourists you ask? Well they are people who risk their lives and their own safety to do touristy things. One example would be to go visit a highly toxic area that was abandoned overnight due to a nuclear power plant explosion. This is the basis behind Oren Peli’s newest film Chernobyl Diaries. You’ll know Peli from his work on the Paranormal Activity series and, if you were a fan of those movies, you should like Chernobyl Diaries.

Chernobyl Diaries uses the basis of a true event. On April 26, 1986 an explosion at the infamous Ukraine power plant released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere. The areas nearest to this power plant had to be evacuated, leaving cities like Pripyat, where Chernobyl Diaries takes place, abandoned yet still intact. This film depicts a group of tourists who meet an extreme tour guide by the name of Uri, played by Dimitri Diatchenko. Uri says he will take them into the abandoned city to give them a tour. They run into a problem when the guard says they are doing some maintenance in the town and they cannot get into the city. Uri, not wanting to disappoint his customers, finds a way to sneak into the city. After they walk around and explore the city for a while they get to their van to leave. They find that the van’s distributor wires, or leads, have been tampered with and they are stranded. From this point on they learn that they are not alone and horror ensues.

For the most part, the movie was fairly entertaining. It’s much better than any of the Paranormal Activity films because it doesn’t work off of the “found footage” genre that Peli is famous for. I enjoyed the cast and thought they did a great job of casting. In an interview with Peli he mentioned that they didn’t tell the auditioning talent what the movie was about. They were given a theme and they had to improvise the part right then and there. Improvisation between the characters gave this movie its charm. The actors were believable and all worked well with each other. Another part of the movie that worked well was the fact that you couldn’t get a clear vision of what the attackers of the film look like. From the context of the film we assume these are people who were malformed from the radiation in the area. Not knowing where the attacker may come from or what they look like adds to the fear and suspense of the film.

While this movie was very suspenseful and had its “jump moments”, I thought it could have used some more action and gore. While we saw that the attackers had the ability to dismember a human we didn’t see much of it happen. Also, when one of the attackers grabbed somebody there wasn’t much struggle between them; the audience just got to follow the action of the surviving members looking for their missing friends.  Chernobyl Diaries does a good job of building suspense but doesn’t use it for much. This might be worth checking out on Redbox if you’re a fan of Paranormal Activity, but it’s definitely not breaking any new ground in the horror genre.

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