Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Dimitri Diatchenko, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips
Written by: Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke
Directed by: Bradley Parker
MPAA Rating: R for violence, some bloody images and pervasive language
Running Time: 90
Date: 05/24/2012

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

1 Star (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Oren Peli, the creator of Paranormal Activity, co-wrote and co-produced this high-concept horror movie, but he forgot to write reasonable characters or situations after the concept. It's basically a generic "Cabin in the Woods" movie, where the characters are not-very-bright young people that constantly make the wrong decisions. The dunderheaded plot doesn't particularly help, as when -- for some reason -- night falls after only a few hours, or things jump out on cue.

Chris (Jesse McCartney, who looks like a cut-rate Leonardo DiCaprio), his girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley), and their friend Amanda (Devin Kelley) travel to Kiev to visit Chris' brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski). After a night of partying, Paul proposes they take an "extreme tour," and visit Pripyat, the city where the workers and families of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant once lived before the infamous 1986 meltdown. After the tour, they discover that the van won't start, and they are forced to spend the night in the spooky old place. Hungry wolves are about, but there's something even worse lurking in the shadows, not to mention the threat of radiation posioning. Can the friends make it out alive?

Making his directorial debut, visual effects man Bradley Parker chooses a hand-held camera look, as if an invisible friend were filming nearby. This allows for some money-saving long shots, but the camera also ends up shaking and lurching, causing more upset stomachs than the subject matter. Nearly every scary moment is either right out of the horror textbook, or else it subverts logic for an easy shortcut. Finally, there's the bad taste factor of using the actual site of a real-life disaster for an exploitation movie. Avoid this one.

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