Film Review: The Chernobyl Diaries

The Chernobyl Diaries features a great setting. It is a shame, however, that the film does not make the most of it.

A group of American tourists decide to eschew their plans to visit Moscow in favour of an ‘extreme tourism’ trip to Pripyat, the former home of the workers at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Along with two other tourists and guide Uri, the visitors discover that Pripyat may not be as abandoned as first thought…

The premise of The Chernobyl Diaries is adequate enough, with its group of tourists exploring the unknown. Nevertheless, the film would have been more appealing if it did not go down a very formulaic route. As far as the narrative is concerned, there is little that will surprise or catch viewers off guard. Moreover, the very end of the film is nonsensical.

As a horror film, Chernobyl Diaries has some good moments of tension. This is not enough to sustain the entire film, however. The sense of mystery as to what exactly is in Pripyat works well. Chernobyl Diaries does keep viewers guessing as to what is in the darkness, helping to hold attention sufficiently.

Some of the film’s dialogue is poor, clearly included for exposition and little else. The characters in Chernobyl Diaries are not particularly well developed. Given the short run time, this is not wholly surprising. Nevertheless, the brother dynamic that is pushed by screenwriters Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke does not add the heart that it intended to, so could have easily been omitted.

The setting of Chernobyl Diaries is great with its abandoned buildings and sense of isolation. The location allows for the dual threat of radiation poisoning and something inhabiting the abandoned town. In spite of the cornucopia of options that the setting grants, Chernobyl Diaries does not utilise it as effectively as it could. The lack of scares points to a wasted opportunity. Performances in the film are suitable enough, although some of the cast falter a little in the more dramatic moments.

Despite its distinct setting, The Chernobyl Diaries has too much in common with other recent horror movies. A lack of ingenuity with the scares, a predictable chain of events and a lacklustre script combine to make Bradley Parker’s film rather forgettable.