Starring. Jesse McCartney, Devin Kelley, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Nathan Phillips, Dimitri Diatchenko. Hungary/Serbia. 1h 33m.
The first time I watched this movie I wasn’t overly impressed, silly me was sat there pffpffying at the screen cos I had seen better and scarier I was grown and I could deal with this, but then I started getting recurring nightmares and they were fucking awesome so I’m giving the film a mini thumbs up for that!
The entire film paints a pretty dim picture of the Ukraine/Serbia area, it’s monochrome greys and blue hues overpower the movie during its brightest hours, when a group of unattached youngsters manage to get smuggled into the no go area in the shadow of the Chernobyl disaster area. A young american couple are heading out for a off beaten adventure with the intention to propose just to warm the audience, while a scandinavian/Australian couple are just out for what they can find. After being stalled at the first checkpoint in the Ukraine they eventually go in through a rougher secret path that was discovered years ago by their local guide Uri. He assure them it’s safe, he has a geiger counter (so fuck your fears kids let’s ROLL!) but they are all constantly on the lookout for dangerous (glowing) wildlife and the military but they roam around the dusty ghost town in awe of the tragedy and well aware of the possible dangers.
After wandering around investigating the super large land loving catfish (documentary about them here) and roaming around the abandoned apartments and running into a bear, the group decide to head home, but find that the wires to the van have been chewed and they can’t get the radio working so no help is coming for them. It’s dark so they try to bed down for the night, then shit starts to happen. The movie has a slightly similar setup to As Above So Below (2014) the group wander around finding peculiar things but then after a pivotal moment suddenly hell is unleashed and the camera can barely keep up with the cast as they literally run for their lives in unknown territory and it’s just a wild ride until the plot twisting conspiracy theory ending not much different from Devil’s Pass (2013).
The film could have go in so many directions, it could have been a chilling silent hill style violent ghost story, or the radiation could have caused bizarre hallucinations and caused the group to go feral, but the idea of random radioactive zombie like creatures that only seem to come out at night and leave no trace, seems a bit like a badly written creepypasta.
In respect for the filming and the jaunty scares that take over the second half when the pace finally heats up, the film holds it own, it’s got just the right about of breaks before another wave of raging horror kicks in. the crazy camera angles doesn’t give the viewer time to get their baring straight before they are off again and that style can keep you on the edge of your sear, what really lets the Chernobyl Diaries down is the how and why they got there that doesn’t add to the possibly flavours that this thriller could have had. I feel that maybe this project could be picked up and saved by a sequel, it would be a long shot, and i think totally forgiven if it re wrote some of this clunky film in order to go on to bigger and better things.
R – Cold Prey (2006), Chernobyl Heart (2003), Shrooms (2007), Devil’s Pass (2013), 1st Summoning (2018)
L – Disaster Horrors Vol 1, Radioactive Cinema,