Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Brad Parker
Cast: Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Nathan Phillips, Dimitri Diatchenko
Two common misconceptions: Chernobyl Diaries is a found footage film, Chernobyl Diaries is a terrible film. Chernobyl Diaries is not a found footage pic, and it’s actually quite entertaining. With no lull in action and enough jarring shots and haunting visuals to fill a two-hour flick, this 85 minute chiller could be classified as a rapid fire feature. There’s an almost gorilla style to the film work, and though the cinematography isn’t overtly stylized, it is easy on the eyes while being just different enough to stand out from other pictures of similar ilk.
The story sees a small group of friends who hire an underground tour guide to lead them into the ill-fated Chernobyl (if you’re not familiar with the story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, look into it, it’s a very real and very frightening story) for a day. Unfortunately they run into all kinds of trouble and that day stretches into a night after their van is tampered with leaving them stranded in Chernobyl, a dozen miles from the nearest guarded checkpoint. Before viewers can say radiation, they’re being slaughtered and or kidnapped by something that’s using the shadows for cover. Is it man? Is it monster? Is it something else entirely?
Using Chernobyl as a horror setting was brilliant. It really is a genius decision that took damn near 30 years to be exercised, but that wait doesn’t feel so bad when Brad Parker’s grimy feature sweeps you away from reality by utilizing something of a loose reality in his display of sharp fiction. The Chernobyl incident is interesting as it is, when you toss a gruesome dose of fiction in the mix, it becomes even more magnetic… strangely so, in fact. There are a number of angles that could be used to move this story forward, but the most obvious bet is the direction taken. But playing it safe doesn’t really backfire in any way. It works. Could something a tad more inventive worked to greater affect? Possibly, but you’ll hear no complaints from me.
The cast is more than serviceable. Dimitri Diatchenko is awesome as the sketchy tour guide. Nathan Phillips and Jonathan Sadowski are both convincing as everyday guys forced to deal with some really heavy business. There isn’t a lady in the group who comes up short in delivery. It’s a pretty strong ensemble and they impress, without the assistance, encouragement or inspiration from a seasoned A-lister. Talk about stepping up, this group does so and passes with flying colors.
There are enough unorthodox maneuvers made in this production to ensure it won’t be a unanimously loved film. However, if you’re keen on flicks willing to step away from the safe zone, and if you’re looking for an engaging spin on the disaster strikes a group of youngsters vacationing concept, you’re likely to get a kick out of Chernobyl Diaries. Don’t let negative reviews sway your decision to watch, this is a movie that deserves a chance to leave an impression.