People of Earth, I am just as surprised as you are- uh, assuming you are, in fact surprised- that I went to see Chernobyl Diaries. Let's face it, the odds were not stacked in favor of this movie and I living together in perfect harmony. It required a trip to the theater, which seemed unlikely at best; I mean, far superior films have come and gone (NO, I have not seen Cabin in the Woods so SHUT UP) and I couldn't get motivated to...you know, leave my house for 'em. Then there's the fact that I'm not terribly into real-life tragedies being exploited for the purposes of shitty horror movie plots. Chernobyl Diaries seemed prime for a spot in my Netflix queue where it would languish forever- I'd add it because of a morbid curiosity and a sense of duty, but I would never, ever be in the mood to watch it. But watch it I did, at the thee-ay-turr! I'm still unsure how it all happened; maybe I was chloroformed and brought there, and upon waking I was too groggy to make the effort required to find my way home. No matter!
A group of fresh-faced-n-bland American young-uns on a whirlwind vacation 'round Europe and the such stop off in Ukraine to visit the expat older brother of one of said fresh-faced-n-bland American young-uns. This older brother is fresh-faced-n-WILD-n-RECKLESS, and as such he suggests they spend the day on a tour of Pripyat, the town abandoned in the wake of the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl nuclear plant. For thos of you who may be wondering, yes, this tour is something you can actually do, and truth be told, it is something I would actually do. What that says about me, I don't know.
After much hemming, hawing, and truly, truly dreadful and obvious "Hey, isn't Chernobyl where that nuclear disaster happened?" expository conversations, the group decides that like me, they are the type to visit a radiation-scarred wasteland.
This sign says "Pripyat". I know this because...well, not only is it easily deduced from the goings-on in the film, but because I took a whole year of Russian in college. Yes, I did! All that work, leading up to this very moment, when I would find a use for it.
The gang spends a couple of hours checking out all of the grand sights of Pripyat: the rusty ferris wheel, the abandoned apartment blocks (complete with items left behind by tenants during the evacuation and...a bear roaming around), the abandoned this that and the other, before heading back into civilization. BUT...omigod, no one ever could have seen this coming...Yuri's van won't start! It's been sabotaged. BUT BY WHOM? Was it the bear? Has the rampant radioactivity caused the bears to become sinister and intelligent?
We're walkin' on radiation...and don't it feel GOOD!
The answer, sadly, is no. Still, we can hold out hopes that there will be intelligent, sinister bears in the sure-to-come Asylum ripoff The Pripyat Journals.
When I first heard about Chernobyl Diaries' existence, I wondered both aloud and aquiet: will the "bad guys / monsters" in the film be mutated victims of the disaster? I wondered this as if it weren't an inevitability! Silly me.
As the sun disappeared and darkness descended upon Yuri's van, the gang got to frettin'. Frettin' turned to a wee spot o' panic when there were noises all around Pripyat- wasn't it supposed to be totally, like, abandoned? You know, except for that bear?
You can probably guess what happens next- the gang is picked off one by one. Some of 'em leave the van in the hope of finding help or another mode of transportation, etc etc. At least the filmmakers had the good sense to keep the CRAZY CANNIBAL MUTANTS (yup, radiation sickness will do that to ya) largely obscured. Folks concerned that Oren "Paranormal Activity" Peli's involvement means that this film is another P.O.V. horror flick can hush up and rest easy, because the conceit is dropped quickly.
Hey, remember in the 80s when everyone was kind of weird, and all the sitcoms took "vacations" to various places? You know, when The Facts of Life went to Paris and Growing Pains went to...I don't know, Disneyland or whatthefuckever? Chernobyl Diaries is basically Wrong Turn Goes to Ukraine, all leading up to a WTF? ending that is almost as WTF as the ending to Pieces- you know, where the corpse comes back to life for no reason whatsoever? It's that laden in WTFosity.
Holy crap, I love Pieces.
Despite the fact that the basic plot of Chernobyl Diaries is in terrible taste...despite the fact that the plot is entirely predictable...despite the fact that I didn't give two shits (or even one shit, really) about any of the characters or even bother to learn their names...despite the ending that makes no sense and is slapped on as one of those generic "horror movie endings" because as we all know, a horror movie MUST end with a jolt...despite all this, it wasn't quite terrible. In fact, I would put this film squarely in the serviceable category. It's got a few scares, some gore, and...I didn't hate it. Had it wasted away in my Netflix queue for all eternity, my life would not be any poorer; but, as something to look at while drinking an outrageously overpriced Diet Coke, well, I've looked at worse, no doubt.