Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Film Review: Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Chernobyl Diaries (Review)
United States/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"Despite the flawed story and characters, I still found myself enjoying the trip."

A group participates in extreme tourism when they visit a town shadowing the infamous Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant...

Chernobyl Diaries is a straightforward horror film. It begins with a generic tourism montage, then it introduces its shallow characters. Conveniently, one is planning to propose soon -- I bet you can't guess where that's heading. (sarcasm) So, this group decides to visit this small town near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant for a brief tour. Of course, everything goes wrong, partly due to idiotic characters decisions, and a fight for survival and escape ensues. It leads to an odd ending.

I wasn't a big fan of the story. It's too generic and forgettable. As horror fans, we've seen this set of characters a hundred times before. There isn't an inch of depth in this set. These characters aren't the worst, but I couldn't care for them one bit -- even with the fabricated drama the film tried to create. In fact, those attempts were most detrimental as it stacked on more clich├ęs. Furthermore, most of the film is dictated by the characters dumb choices, even up to the end. ("Stop moving! We have guns!" "Huh? I guess I should keep moving..." You can't see, but you're not deaf!) For the most part, the story plays it too safe, as well. Even when it starts to pick up, it just doesn't feel like it's going anywhere.

Although I didn't like the story much, I did enjoy the concept and setting. The idea of extreme tourism is good, and it's executed decently. The film has a dark and ominous atmosphere throughout, which is another big plus. The setting is great, too. It feels amazing to watch a horror film that expands from a house and ghosts moving doors every once and a while. Most of the horror in this film consists of loud-noise jump scares, though, which is a little disappointing. Sure, they're exciting, but they're also ineffective and forgettable, especially during a second viewing. A little more suspense would have helped. The use of shadows was good, though.

Although the characters were shallow, the acting was decent. It only felt borderline mediocre when the film tried to become dramatic. Otherwise, it's more than competent for this genre. The setting is great. I'm not a big fan of the constantly swaying camerawork, though, it's almost like watching a found-footage film. Director Brad Parker does well in crafting the ominous atmosphere and delivering some jolting jump-scares. The over-reliance on jump-scares is unfortunate, though, and the story and characters are mostly mediocre.

Overall, Chernobyl Diaries is a decent horror film. Despite the flawed story and characters, I still found myself enjoying the trip. There was barely enough here to keep me hooked from beginning to end. If you don't mind a barrage of jump-scare and want to get out of the haunted house and stretch your legs a bit, this is at least worth a cheap rental. I haven't watched this film in years, and it's grown on me a little more since last time.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and gore.

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