Saturday, May 26, 2012
In Theaters: CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)
Directed by Brad Parker. Written by Oren Peli, Shane Van Dyke, Carey Van Dyke. Cast: Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Nathan Phillips, Devin Kelley, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Dimitri Diatchenko, Olivia Taylor Dudley. (R, 88 mins)
Despite appearances and the involvement of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY mastermind Oren Peli as producer and co-writer, CHERNOBYL DIARIES is not another in the endless stream of "found footage" horror outings. It does, however, rely heavily on shaky-cam to tell the story of four Americans--brothers Paul (Jonathan Sadowski of the somehow-lasted-for-an-entire-season TV series $#*! MY DAD SAYS ) and Chris (former teen pop sensation Jesse McCartney), Chris' girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley), and Natalie's friend Amanda (Devin Kelley)--and two Australians, Michael (Nathan Phillips of WOLF CREEK) and Zoe (Ingrid Bolso Berdal of the Norwegian horror film COLD PREY), on an "extreme tour" day trip to Pripyat, the town abandoned after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown in April 1986. Led by gregarious ex-Special Forces tour guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), who's been supervising these excursions for five years, the tourists are denied entrance at a checkpoint because of a "maintenance issue." Undeterred, Uri tells his customers "There's more than one way into Pripyat," and he takes them in through a roundabout way through a surrounding wooded area. While radiation levels are elevated, a few hours exposure won't do any harm, and the biggest surprise they get is the sudden appearance of a wild bear. But once back at the van, Uri finds the electrical wires torn apart. Then the howling and the wailing start, and they quickly realize they're not alone and Pripyat is not abandoned.
What can you say about a horror movie where the most chilling moments are the quiet ones where nothing's happening and you're just observing the setting and the locations? If you really want to be unsettled, just Google some images of the vacated Pripyat. Those will send more chills down your spine than anything in the watchable but very tired CHERNOBYL DIARIES.