A group of tourists decide to go on an extreme tourism trip to Pripyat, the town affected by the famous Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Once there and having looked around they go to leave but can’t as they discover their van has been sabotaged. They soon discover that the seemingly abandoned town might not be abandoned after all.
Co-written and produced by Oren Peli (creator of the Paranormal Activity franchise) Chernobyl Diaries has an compelling, if rather far-fetched, premise which has a lot of potential for the sort of horror movie it’s aiming to be. Unfortunately first-time director Brad Parker and writers Peli, Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke can’t find anything interesting to do with that premise, taking far too long to get into the swing of things and failing to muster up any real scares beyond prolonged silences and loud noises.
It’s not that jump scares aren’t a good tactic for a horror movie as, in fact, many of the greatest horror movies of all time feature signature moments of something jumping out at you. However, there’s a difference between timing one of those scares well – building tension and atmosphere so that when that moment does arrive it really hits you – and just having a loud noise after the silence of characters wandering around in the dark. It’s only human to jump at a loud bang, it doesn’t mean the film is effectively scary.
The movie somehow manages to make its interesting premise, cinematically unique location and monsters (of which I will not the spoil the nature of) rather tedious. Spending time with a bunch of characters we’re never given the opportunity or any reason to truly care about (binding two of the characters as brothers and a weak subplot about a marriage proposal is weak) not least because they make the most stupid of decisions at times, it’s repetitive and frustratingly slow when it should be pacy, exciting and most importantly of all frightening.
Chernobyl Diaries is the type of bland, unengaging movie that gives the horror genre a bad name. A muddled bunch of derivative ideas blended together with poor pacing, characterisation, too man leaps in logic and crucially a lack of any real substantial scares, this is horror you do not want to waste your time on. Is it the worst horror movie ever made? Absolutely not, as at least there’s an attempt at something worthwhile going on here with an intriguing premise. Unfortunately it’s all about the execution and in that respect the movie fails.