Chernobyl Diaries

From director Bradley Parker, who also co-produced this movie with Oren Peli (the Paranormal Activity series) & Brian Witten, comes horror film Chernobyl Diaries. The story is about 2 young couples and 2 other friends who go along with their tour guide to abandoned town of Prypiat, just outside of Chernobyl – the site of the nuclear disaster. Released in 2012 the film stars Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, and Dimitri Diatchenko.

There’s nothing unique about the plot, except for the movie makers deciding to use the real life tragedy of the Chernobyl Power Plant disaster as the backdrop. Chris & his girlfriend Natalie are traveling throughout Europe – visiting the hot spots like Paris, London & Rome. Their next stop is Kiev, Ukraine which is where Chris’s older brother Paul lives. After spending some time unwinding and partying (including an almost fight with 3 guys who try to hit on the girls), Paul suggests to the other 3 that they go on an “extreme tour” of the abandoned town of  Prypiat  which sits in the shadow of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, deserted since the events. This town housed most of the employees of the power plant and the residents were given barely 5 minutes to evacuate the town before the disaster struck. Yuri, who runs a tour service, meets them at his office and they are joined by another couple – Michael & Zoe (an Australian & Norweigian who just met a few weeks ago) for the trip. They go in Yuri’s old van and are stopped at the checkpoint where the Ukrainian military denies them entry claming that there is some maintanence work going on.

Yuri takes them through another route, sneaking in without the soldier’s knowledge. As they spot a mutated fish on the banks of a river, Yuri shows them his geiger counter which shows him which areas have heavy radiation. At the abandoned town, they take in the desolate sights, explore a few buildings. While inside an apartment building, they find a bear that rushes past them. As dark approaches they prepare to leave but find that their van won’t start – wires have been chewed off. The radio isn’t picking up signals either, so Yuri says that they have to spend the night in the van and go for help in the morning, which leads to Chris blaming Paul for their situation. However on hearing noises, Yuri and Chris go out to investigate. Shots are heard and Paul runs out, only to return with Chris whose leg has been severely mauled, seemingly by dogs. The van is surrounded by snarling dogs who lunge at the van but leave after a while. The next day  Paul, Michael, and Amanda go looking for Yuri – they find his mutilated body in an underground reactor complex are are attacked by an unseen attacker in the dark. The three escape back to the van where Amanda shows them a creature looking at them from a window of a building in one of the pictures she took.  It is decided for Chris and Natalie to stay behind while the others go for help.

Paul, Amanda, Michael & Zoe find a parking lot and a  locate some old replacement parts for Yuri’s van and are chased by wild dogs while returning to the van. The dogs chase the group until they reach the lake and while crossing the lake, Michael falls in and is attacked by the fish. Night falls as the group returns to the van, but it is ripped to shreds and flipped over. Natalie’s video camera reveals that she and Chris were taken by mutants. While searching for the two, the group is chased by more mutants. By nightfall they find a traumatized Natalie but she is whisked away by another mutant while the other 4 are distracted. The rest of the group is then swarmed by a horde of mutants. While retreating to a fallout shelter, Michael is captured causing Zoe much anguish. They find Michael’s ring; he was going to propose to Natalie once they reached Moscow. hey start to climb a ladder and a gang of mutants pull Zoe back down, forcing Amanda and Paul to leave her behind. As two remaining – Paul & Amanda – run through a section of the reactor, they notice that their skin has started to blister due to high radiation contamination. They manage to find their way out of the reactor, but are confronted by Ukrainian military personnel. Blinded from radiation poisoning, Paul tries to approach the soldiers, who shoot him dead.

Amanda falls unconscious to the ground and when she comes to she is being taken inside a building on a gurney. Several doctors, clad in protective hazmat suits, inform her that she is in a hospital. Talking among themselves, the doctors reveal that the “creatures” were escaped patients who had been recaptured. They decide that Amanda knows too much, and can’t be allowed to leave. Amanda is thrown into a dark room where she is attacked by mutants.

Good enough for a few scares and jumps as it is mostly shot in the dark and several scenes are shot with just flashlights illuminating the area. There has been some Chernobly victims & survivors friendly groups who the film’s plot was insensitive to those who died and were injured in the disaster, and the movie was sensationalizing events that had “tragic human consequences”. I did find a bit of that (the movie had to be shot in Serbia & Hungary) but it’s still worth a watch. 7 out of 10!

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