Review: By-the-numbers 'Chernobyl Diaries' a huge meltdown

CD-TP-158 (L-r) DEVIN KELLEY as Amanda and JONATHAN SADOWSKI as Paul in Alcon Entertainment, Film Nation Entertainment and Oren Peli/Brian Witten PicturesÄô ÄúCHERNOBYL DIARIES,Äù a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Photo by Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. P, ©2012 Oxford Tours, LLC

CD-TP-158 (L-r) DEVIN KELLEY as Amanda and JONATHAN SADOWSKI as Paul in Alcon Entertainment, Film Nation Entertainment and Oren Peli/Brian Witten PicturesÄô ÄúCHERNOBYL DIARIES,Äù a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

"Chernobyl Diaries" is set in the city of Prypiat that once housed the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, the horror-thriller follows a group of ...

Rating: R for violence, some bloody images and pervasive language

Length: 90 minutes

Released: May 25, 2012 Nationwide

Cast: Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Olivia Dudley, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal

Director: Brad Parker

Writer: Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke

More info and showtimes »

Other than the setting, there's little about "Chernobyl Diaries" to distinguish it from all of the other horror films where a group of good-looking people find themselves in a deadly situation and make silly decisions as they are picked off one by one. As with so many of these films, it's not the destination but the journey that either makes or breaks the movie.

The journey here has six tourists taking a trip to the abandoned city of Pripyat. This was once the home for the workers at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor until the accident left the area lifeless. The extreme tourist spot goes bad when the group's van won't start and they soon realize the city is not as abandoned as they thought.

Horror films take one of two scary paths. There are those movies, such as "Nightmare on Elm Street," where you know exactly who — or what — is trying to frighten the bejeebers out of you. Then there are movies, such as "Paranormal Activity," where the source of the terror is only hinted at until the end.

It makes sense that the things that go bump in the night in "Chernobyl Diaries" aren't revealed until late in the film since it was written by Oren Peli, director of "Paranormal Activity."

The problem with this structure is that there's no opportunities for confrontation through the first 80 percent of the movie. That means all the cast can do is run and scream at the brief glimpses of the terror we get to see. First-time director Bradley Parker does a competent enough job of building tension, but he has everyone running toward a predictable ending.

Even the film's name is misleading. Using the word "Diaries" in the title would suggest the movie's structure would be similar to the "found footage" style of "The Blair Witch Project." But there's no video or written log of what happens.

As for the fodder for slaughter, it's a cookie-cutter cast that offers the brave, the scared and the stupid. It doesn't help that the best actor of the bunch, Jesse McCartney, gets sidelined early.

If you have any hopes of enjoying the film, leave your brain at the concession stand. Peli ignores quick solutions — such as a van full of people with cell phones who never try to call for help — to keep the story moving ahead. It takes that kind of mindless approach if you have any hope of enjoying "Chernobyl Diaries." Otherwise, it's a huge meltdown.

———

"CHERNOBYL DIARIES"

Rated R for language, gore, violence.

Stars Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Olivia Dudley, Ingrid Bolso Berdal.

Directed by Bradley Parker.

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

Grade: C-

———

(c)2012 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

Visit The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.) at www.fresnobee.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

—————

Topics: t000002409,t000002437,t000040181

© 2012 Knoxville.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Already activated? Login