Movie Review: “Chernobyl Diaries” – Monsters Not Needed

Written by Pam-Marie Gx June 05, 2012

Instead of going to Moscow as planned, six tourists change their plans to see the city of Pripyat, which was abandoned after the Chernobyl Disaster 26 years ago. Along with their tour guide, Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), these unsuspecting six explore the city for a day before attempting to return to civilization. It is only then they find themselves trapped, with both the local denizens and threat of radiation painting a nightmare in a city “reclaimed by nature.”

Location, Location, Location.

There is no way to talk about this movie without talking about the amazing setting. For those who haven’t seen some of the amazing photos coming out of Pripyat, there are several places to start looking. The city itself has a website with some amazing photos, and photographer Jan Smith has taken some truly beautiful photographs of the area. The fact is, there really wasn’t much to be added to the inherent creepiness of the city. “Chernobyl Diaries” could simply have featured them wandering around aimlessly for two hours and there still would have been a ton of suspense.

The location is so important that Pripyat almost seems to be a character in and of itself, often outshining the humans wandering around inside of it. Personally, I found this to be a strength for the movie. The characters themselves occasionally just enacted predictable plots. My favourite is the oh-so-overdone engagement subplot that is apparently a required part of every horror movie ever. It’s cheesy, we’ve all seen it before, and it really didn’t matter with how cool Pripyat was.

Better Left Unseen

Speaking of characters that got left in the city’s shadow, the monsters in this weren’t really a big deal. I mean, they were scary and all, but it was the unseen threat chasing them through probably one of the creepiest places on earth that made the movie. It seems that the director acknowledged that though, and so you never get a really good look at the things chasing them. This allows you to almost insert the most terrifying thing you can think of. For me, that’s Reavers. The idea of being chased through Pripyat by Reavers actually gave me nightmares, because Reavers are the most terrifying things ever imagined (thank-you, Joss Whedon).

I only have a couple of issues with this movie. The first is the timing of things in this movie. There’s one point where a few characters leave at dawn, walk to somewhere still within the city limits and explore a parking lot for maybe an hour, but then it’s dark when they are still on the way back to where other characters are. It makes no sense. Did they stop for a movie or something? Did they have a collective stroke lasting for several hours before heading back? Who knows! There’s also the little girl thing, which has nothing to do with anything. I guess little girls are just inherently creepy, and therefore must be included.

So…

“Chernobyl Diaries” adds up to a pretty good movie. The setting is really amazing, and the director clearly knew how to use it to its best advantage. There are some awkward timing issues, and the ending could have been better, but I was legitimately afraid without being grossed out by excessive gore or bored by overdone “tension,” and that’s all I really ask from horror movies.

My Rating: 7/10

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About Pam-Marie Gx

Pam-Marie Gx

Reader, writer, student, movie-goer, drinker of rum - Pam-Marie is all these things, and more! She has a large appetite for both media and caffeine, and spends most of her time with some sort of electronic device close at hand. You can follow her on Twitter @PamMarieGx. She may even occasionally be amusing.

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