Spoilers: Jesse McCartney doesn’t sing. I know. I was disappointed, too.
Directed by: Bradley Parker
Stars: Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, and Olivia Dudley
MPAA Rating: R
In 1986, there was an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant which released large quantities of radiation into the atmosphere over much of the area. Large-scale evacuations took place, leaving behind a ghost town in a permanent stasis. It is a real-life location, and a creepy one at that. And it is the basis for a new horror film, CHERNOBYL DIARIES. Can a fictional story add more horror to an already horrifying locale?
CHERNOBYL DIARIES follows a group of young, good-looking tourists who hire an ex-soldier turned extreme tourist guide to take them through the abandoned city of Pripyat, which formerly housed the ill-fated employees of the Chernobyl nuclear power reactor. The adventure turns sour when their travelling van is sabotaged and they are left stranded. It becomes a nightmare when they are forced to contend with lingering radiation, carnivorous animals, and vicious, mysterious attackers who start picking them off one-by-one.
The movie starts off pretty well. The characters are actually very likeable, and well-acted by the cast. The location is well-established as foreboding and haunted. The way their predicament deteriorates is fairly compelling and suspenseful at first. However, when the primary threat comes into play, the film loses a lot of the steam it carefully built up. It never feels like the story or the horror pays off in any satisfying or interesting ways. For the final third of the movie, we’re basically treated to an extended chase sequence with brief pauses here and there, but with all the disturbing or upsetting parts stripped away. It’s analogous to watching a slasher film and never seeing anyone get stabbed.
The production itself is well-done. It’s competently written and directed for the most part. The hesitance to show anything truly violent or horrible works against it, though. As previously mentioned, the acting is surprisingly strong. What little make-up and special effects that exist in the film are convincing.
It’s a real shame that CHERNOBYL DIARIES ends up feeling so hollow and unremarkable. Everything else about it works so well, and it seems that the film has good intentions behind it. If only the filmmakers had the courage to follow through on the premise and the characters, and really shoot for a hard-hitting horror film, we could’ve potentially had a new classic.
CHERNOBYL DIARIES is currently playing in theaters nationwide. It cannot be recommended by this critic.
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