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.

Film Review: Insidious

People in horror movies never actually seem to watch horror movies themselves. Otherwise, they would know to scarper at the first sign of danger, unlike the protagonists in Insidious.

Josh, Renai and their three children move into a new home. Before they have finished unpacking, strange things start to occur. When the couple find their oldest son Dalton in an unexplained comatose state, they decide to pack up ad leave. Moving into a new home, the family find that whatever was previously haunting them has followed…

Insidious is a good schlock horror that provides a decent amount of frights for those who buy into it. Some elements are unsurprisingly silly; seemingly a prerequisite of the modern horror film. Nevertheless, Insidious is an effective possession movie overall.

Much is made in the film’s publicity of the fact that the makers of Saw and Paranormal Activity are at the helm. Creator of Saw James Wan directs and Leigh Whannell writes, while Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli is one of the film’s producers. Given the success of these two recent franchises, it is easy to see why they have been played up in the advertising for the film. Although it is most comparable to Paranormal Activity of the two, thankfully Insidious is its own movie. The film does not draw too heavily on previous haunting films, despite the inevitable comparisons to The Haunting in Connecticut and The Amityville Horror among others.

One of the best things about Insidious is that the film injects a healthy dose of humour into proceedings. The appearance of Specs and Tucker lighten the atmosphere at the right time. They relieve some of the tension and sombreness that had hitherto been building. Whilst Insidious is unlikely to rank alongside cult classic Evil Dead II with this mix of horror and comedy, this aspect does distinguish the film from being just another generic possession movie.

Certain scenes in the film evoke Ridley Scott’s Legend, with their polemical imagery and use of colour. The booming score is pivotal in enhancing the sense of apprehension. The use of a recurring vintage tune is reminiscent of the Halloween series and Jeepers Creepers in giving an innocuous song a more menacing turn. Effects are good, although there is one particular use of CGI that cheapens the look of the film.

Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are aptly cast as protagonists Josh and Renai. Ty Simpkins is believable as young Dalton, while Barbara Hershey is underused as Lorraine.

With its nods to numerous horror films, Insidious is a well-crafted movie that effectively delivers the scares. It’s not The Haunting, but should prove to be popular amongst horror aficionados.