Horror fims that surround factual events and emotive subjects have always been popular with the fans no matter how loosely the term ‘factual’ is used – The Amityvile Horror franchise (where even the ‘facts’ weren’t exactly facts), the Exorcism of Emily Rose, and The Girl Next Door are all examples of the subgenre that have been very hit and miss in terms of critical or commercial success. In the end, it all depends on the subject matter and how you’re going to approach it in terms of script and taste, and whether you want anyone in the world to want to watch it or not.
Chernobyl ( for anyone that isn’t familiar with anything that’s happening outside of Jersey Shore, or has never watched the news in their lives), was a nuclear disaster that occurred in 1986 in the Ukraine, when a reactor exploded releasing more than 40 times the amount of radiation resulting from Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Whole cities had to be evacuated, and the people in the surrounding areas are still living with the devastating effects of contamination today, and will for generations to come. Horrifying sure, but if you want to turn it into celluloid scares, then its best to tread carefully around a very sensitive and very raw subject. Not surprising then, that there have been protests that the premise was even pitched in the first place, much less being released world wide.
The plot involves a group of vacuous tourists who go on a sightseeing tour of the deserted town as part of their ‘kooky things to do before we settle down to perfect little lives’, with a half arsed ‘tension between two brothers’ storyline thrown in for good measure. While giggling like morons, taking lots of pictures, and acting completely without empathy or respect, they get back to their tour bus to discover that it won’t start, and (Dun dun DUN!) they are not alone,
I was looking forward to seeing this film, after the internet buzz it had generated over the past year, and had high hopes for a well made, intelligent horror film, but I’ve got to say that it failed miserably on all levels.
To say that The Chernobyl Diaries was predictable to the point of mind numbing boredom would be a compliment frankly, the basic scripting and dialogue being lazy and haphazard at best, and although the actors were decent enough, they could only do so much with the material they were given. As for the whole genetic mutations terrorising the dumb twenty somethings, it turned out to be about as tasteful as a zombie horror set in Auschwitz would be.
When two of the three writers are the grandchildren of Dick Van Dyke, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Chernobyl Diaries would be an all singing, all dancing cheese fest, and you know, I think maybe that would have been more entertaining and certainly less tacky than what they came up with here.
The film could have been subtle, intelligent and chilling (as a few interesting shots of abandoned dolls and playground equipment proved to be more eerie than anything the writers could have come up with) , but ended up turning into an over the top, whiny circus, that painted the villains as the only people you could truly empathise with .
Oh and watch out for the radioactive bear.