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Despite an interesting premise and spooky atmospherics, Chernobyl Diaries is mostly short on suspense and originality. Read critic reviews
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Audience Reviews for Chernobyl Diaries
Aug 04, 2018I don't know why, for the longest time, I thought that this was a found footage movie. The trailers never made that clear, of course, but I came to the assumption that it was based on the way it looked and how everything was shot. Much to my surprise, however, this isn't a found footage film at all. As I've made clear throughout the years, I'm not a 'hater' of the found footage genre. Much like every other subgenre within horror, it has its good, its bad and a lot that's in the middle. That the found footage genre inspires some laziness within some particularly unskilled filmmakers is not to be denied, but it has also been used to create some of the more effective horror movies of the last decade, at least in my opinion. Rec is a tremendous found footage movie and, also, one of my favorite horror movies of all time. That's a movie that, when I think of the genre, I immediately point to as proof of what the genre can be if handled with skill. That's neither here nor there, I suppose. Having said that, though, for some reason, despite not being a found footage movie, I do like the look of this film. I think it does a good job at drawing you into its world with its, somewhat, documentary-esque look. And, honestly, as I sit here and I look back on this film, that is probably one of the very few things positive that I can say about this movie. I remember, in a review for The Villisca Axe House, that a video on YouTube based on the real-life case would have provided more horror and/or scares than that movie provided. I feel that the same could be said about this movie. And the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is a pretty famous one so, I'm certain, plenty of YouTubers have made videos on it. And why wouldn't they? Somehow, seeing the abandoned buildings, still stuck in time, and that Ferris wheel and just knowing what happened and how the people there, pretty much, left almost all of their belongings behind, gives it a really creepy vibe. Even if there's nothing supernatural about it, it's just a strange vibe seeing a place that used to be teeming with life becoming, essentially, a ghost town. That, in and of itself, sounds considerably creepier than this movie ended up being. And that's a shame because, as far I can tell, there haven't been many horror movies surrounding this nuclear disaster. And perhaps that's, maybe, because it's still a relatively sensitive topic to those that experienced and, if you wanna be authentic, you're at least gonna have to Ukraine to give you the permits to shoot there. This isn't possible, however, because Pripyat, the town the movie takes place in which is, of course, abandoned as a result of the radiation leaks in Chernobyl, still has nuclear dust floating around. So you have to find a place that's similar enough to go to. Or, at the very least, to convince regular people that, in fact, it MAY have been shot there, even though they wouldn't have. So I think this movie, in terms of setting at least, does a good enough job with its setting. Giving it that abandoned, isolated feel that is essential for a film like this. So, being a fair man, I have to give them props for, at the very least, getting the tone of the setting down. What I can blame them for, however, is everything else. I don't know if I feel that this is more a boring movie than it is a bad one or if it's some sort of combination of both. The thing about it is that, again, there's probably an interesting angle with which to base a horror movie around. But the problem is the fact that the movie comes up with the laziest 'villains' possible. Places such like Pripyat and Chernobyl and what happened there are bound to inspire conspiracy theories as to what the aftermath of the nuclear disaster may have been. What if there were people there? What if these people lived through the nuclear disaster and are still currently alive? These are all good questions to ask but, at the same time, it's literally the first thing you think about when you start to write a horror movie surrounding Chernobyl and Pripyat. They chose, literally, the easiest idea they could in order to tell their story. The problem with this is that there's nothing that separates the villains/monsters of this movies from, say, zombies. They very much react the same way when exposed to humans. All they want to do is kill. That basically means that this is pretty much indistinguishable from most every zombie movie in existence. So, in the long run, while the radiation Pripyat plays a big part in the narrative, it's almost like the whole Chernobyl thing is just a backdrop for a derivative zombie story. It's like Chernobyl came AFTER the script was already finished. They were like 'hmmmm, this movie is lacking something, what can we do to spice it up?'. And that's when they came up with setting it in Pripyat and Chernobyl. They changed some things around and, voila, this is the movie that we got. And, again, for something like Chernobyl, which was a massive deal back in the day, you'd hope for something a little more inspired given the history behind it. But, no, that's not what we got. I can't stress this enough, I felt that this movie probably had a lot of potential. Potential won't carry you far when you don't have the skills to put together a reasonably competent horror movie. And the characters are kind of unlikable too. They're not insufferable, but I just didn't like any of them. Paul is kind of a douche that always does things on a whim and his little brother, Chris, always ends up paying for his impulsiveness. Zoe is kind of useless. Michael is not so much of a douche, but he's got no personality. Natalie is, basically, the hot chick of the group. And Amanda is a photographer. These are people with no personalities or, really, just the bare minimum. The acting didn't blow me away either. No one but Jonathan Sadowski, who played Paul, was actively terrible. Jonathan was really bad in this movie, if I'm gonna be honest. He's not always bad, don't get me wrong. But when the shit hits the fan and the...mutants take Chris when Paul and two others are out looking for something, I forget what, this is when the he starts sucking. His sad face looks like he's constipated and I never felt like he was actually feeling any of the feelings that he's supposed to be conveying. Sometimes it looks like he's laughing. In all, it was just really bad and that brought the movie down to me. Because the person you're supposed to 'relate' to the most due to wanting to find and save his brother can't make me feel anything but apathy at his plight. And, in large part, that's due to the poor scripting. But I still don't feel that Jonathan Sadowski put forth his best effort. Maybe he did, who knows? But I just know that he really sucked here. And before you get all Kevin Smith on me, saying that you I can't criticize what he does until I do it myself (which is a bullshit arguent, because if I can't criticize you when you're bad, theoretically, I shouldn't be able to praise you when you're good either), I have done some acting. Seriously, very minimal. Like not even worth anything in the long run, but I've still done some acting. I enjoyed doing it, actually (which is strange considering how shy I am), but I know I was terrible and I'm not gonna fool myself. So, technically speaking, I've nipped that in the bud and I can criticize him for sucking at acting since I suck myself. That...sounded very wrong, but you catch my drift. Moving on. The horror is incredibly uninspired and uninteresting. There's just nothing here with any weight and, really, the fact that there's minimal gore suggests to me that they thought they had a great movie on their hands. Oh, how wrong you were, my dudes. How wrong you were. There's some gore, but it's contained to one scene and it's only the aftermath of an attack. I also feel that, for some reason, the movie was afraid to push the limits and that's why everything in the movie was so tame. Because, while these mutants are certainly 'threats', you don't really get to see what they do at any one time. You don't get to see how threatening they are by seeing them rip apart someone limb from limb. All the deaths/disappearances are left to the imagination and, quite frankly, for a movie this bad, it needed all the help it could have gotten. But it cut off its head to spite its body. I just don't know what else I can say, honestly. This is not a good movie in any way, shape or form. The horror is derivative, the scares are nonexistent, unlikable characters, below average acting and poor scripting all add up to make this a bad movie. I've seen worse, but I've seen much better. Don't know what else I need to say than that. No need for any of you to watch this, in the slightest.
May 23, 2014I actually enjoyed this. Did anything surprise me? No. However, I still found it entertaining, even though I pretty much knew what was going to happen.Erin C Super Reviewer
Dec 25, 2013Cannot even believe I paid to see this.
Nov 26, 2013This movie had two serious things going against it before my viewing: Oren Peli and the low reviews. Turns out I ended up enjoying the movie quite a bit! The atmosphere was built rather well, thanks to the amazing setting, sense of dread it carries and by not showing or telling us jack right until the end. Also helps to have a well rounded cast of people that are less douchy than the majority in these films. I could sense the ordeal they were going through and some of the decisions they had to make, even if they seemed somewhat silly at times. The bad thingies could be summed up to the off screen deaths and the derailment that is the last 20ish minutes. It tries to be more than what it is and looses a lot of what was built before thanks to it. There just isn't a good enough payoff in the end or during, for a movie like this. It plays the tropes of the genre too easily, so it can't get past the mediocrity.