Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: Chernobyl Diaries

When Chernobyl Diaries made its way into cinemas earlier this year, there was some tempered displeasure over the subject matter.  Casting victims of a real-life catastrophe as antagonists in a horror film tends to rub people the wrong way.  However, it registered merely as a blip since no one cared about the movie and even fewer people saw it – as evidenced by its $18M domestic gross. 

I was only slightly put off by the premise partly because Chernobyl happened over twenty-five years ago and time has muted memories of the catastrophe and partly because the premise is so absurd that it is truly disconnected from reality.  If anything, what outraged me most about this flick is just how bad it is.  There are low budget horror movies and then there are low budget / we-are-not-even-trying horror movies and this one definitely belongs in the latter category.

If you have a life or are gainfully employed you probably missed the trailers on this one so to get you up to speed here’s a quick synopsis.  A group of tourists decide that instead of partying in Moscow, they are going to follow an ex-military officer on an extreme tour of the Chernobyl disaster site.  After illegally entering the area, calamity ensues, people die, and the credits roll.  That pretty much sums it up.  So in reflecting upon the experience of watching this movie, there are three sets of people who should feel ashamed of themselves:

1. The Creative Team:  Forget that the plot stinks, that the direction is brutal, and that even the cheap thrills are completely bungled, the fact that they set this against the backdrop of the Chernobyl disaster is weak at best.  I don’t think I am spoiling anything in saying that the antagonists are the result of the nuclear fallout, so for the writers Oren Peli and Carey Van Dyke as well as director Bradley Parker to use this to sell a few movie tickets (and I do mean few) feels sordid.  And to be honest, they could have replaced the whole Chernobyl vibe with something trivial like renegade soccer hooligans and probably made a better movie.

2. The cast:  It is hard to fault a cast of unknowns who are very green, but how hard is it to look scared in the dark and do lots of yelling.  Jonathan Sadowski is the only actor that is even remotely recognizable and nothing he does in this movie is better than the acting you’d find in a Lifetime movie.  As for the rest of the cast, I figured out after the fact that singer/songwriter Jesse McCartney was in this movie.  If that doesn’t sum up the level of acting talent then I don’t know what does.

3. Me:  I belong on this list for three reasons.  The first is that I put this on my Netflix queue; the second is that I let it get to the top of the queue; and the third is that I watched this movie when it arrived instead of doing anything else.  Seriously, counting my socks, biting my fingernails, and even cutting a lawn with a pair of scissors would have been time better spent. 

So yeah, the movie is terrible.  Don’t watch it.  No hyperbole, no overstatements, no analogies, because my advice is that simple.  The movie is a piece of cinematic excrement.  Learning from the mistakes of others is an important skill to life management so as I write this paragraph, I am hoping that whoever read this post shall learn from mine:  No more low budget horror movies!  Say it with me:  No more low budget horror movies!  One more time: No more low budget horror movies…until Paranormal Activity 4 drops on Netflix!

Standout Performance: There is this huge bear at the halfway point of this movie that runs through a building, and well, the bear does a great job of acting like a bear!


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