REVIEWS: Horror & SyFy — October 8, 2012 at 3:16 am

REVIEW: Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Here we go – a long awaited, horror film from Oren Peli, the creator of “Paranormal Activity” franchise. This creation of his, however, has nothing to do with anything paranormal.

It is all true, it all happened, and the real accident that the film is loosely based on, is considered to have been “the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale”. Now, let’s move on, to the film itself…

“Chernobyl Diaries” centers around a group of young tourists in Europe, who are having all kinds of fun, yet it doesn’t seem to be enough, as one of them hires Yuri (Dimitri Diatchenko) – a former soldier-turned extreme guide, who agrees to take them to the abandoned Ukrainian city of Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

Pripyat – a ghost town near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, part of Kiev Oblast (province) of northern Ukraine, near the border with Belarus.

Despite various rumors, Pripyat and Chernobyl are two different cities. According to website, Pripyat is 2 km away from Chernobyl, and at the time of the catastrophe, there were 49,000 people living there.

So, despite hesitations to visit the place, the tourists (a total of six) follow their guide to Pripyat. The border patrol prohibits the tourists to enter Pripyat, claiming there are “some check-ups” going on, however Yuri manages to take them into the city via another, lesser known road.

So, our heroes, hungry for extreme, enter the abandoned city, and walk around, with Yuri occasionally checking the radiation levels in the area.

At first, the “tour” seems to go as planned, with tourists receiving tons of excitement and adrenaline. Yet later, the problems start to surface, as first they encounter wandering animals in the city, and later…when their car is won’t start, and it starts to get dark, they realize there is something worse than animals, that is still living in Pripyat. And this “something” is anything but friendly.

The opinions about the film (both from those who saw it, and those who did not) were mixed. Some said this was a “decent horror movie”, others went as far as claiming this was “the worst horror of 2012”.

One thing “Chernobyl Diaries” is not – it is not the worst, not even close. The scenes where Yuri and the tourists first enter the abandoned city of Pripyat are truly breathtaking.

Some would assume these scenes were shot in Pripyat for real, yet IMDB says the shooting locations were in Serbia and Hungary. If that’s true, then the filmmakers managed to create “Pripyat” for this film brilliantly – there is really no difference between what we see in the film, and the online pictures of real city.

Another thing that “Chernobyl Diaries” captures you with – this really unpleasant feeling of being in that place, especially with the night approaching. A seemingly empty, abandoned, radioactive city, dead silence and something lurking in the dark – is definitely more frightening than any Freddy or Jason nightmare. This feeling is even stronger than in “Silent Hill”.

Acting was believable, yet of course nothing spectacular. “Chernobyl Diaries” hits viewers with its atmosphere, and it hits hard.

The ending is something that could cause mixed feelings about the film, as it might seem too twisted, and it can be explained from different point of views. Filmmakers left it for the viewers to decide.

Reportedly, writer Oren Peli had to deal with Chernobyl victims’ support group and a couple of other organizations, that claimed “Chernobyl Diaries” exploited the many victims of the nuclear catastrophe. Peli explained his point of view, and whether it is right or not, left for others to decide.

One thing Peli and director Bradley Parker managed to do with this film – is to scare off any possible tourists that could have gone on this “extreme tourism” trip to Pripyat and Chernobyl itself.

Yes, if you’re curious, there really are tours there. Want to go? If not, stick to the film, it is worth seeing at least once.



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  1. Thanks for the review. Gearing up for Halloween, I put a bunch of horror movies into my Blockbuster @Home queue. I pretty much never buy horror movies since I find the vast majority of them underfunded, poorly written, and poorly acted—so I almost never watch any of them more than once. One of my coworkers recommended Chernobyl Diaries, but I wasn’t sure if I could trust his taste in horror so I thought I’d check what people were saying online and 6/10 doesn’t seem (relatively) too bad; this one’s going in the queue. Thanks again.

  2. “Chernobyl Diaries” isn’t half bad as some people online say. There are far worse movies than this one, and “chernobyl…” does in fact give you some scares here and there. If you are familiar with the real 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, then you might be surprised how similar the area in the film is to the real one. Part of it was CGI, as we’ve learned from one of the actors in the film, yet it still looks really cool.

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