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Chernobyl Diaries (Frank's take)

01/07/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Chernobyl Diaries in the USA - or Buy Chernobyl Diaries in the UK

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Chernobyl Diaries continues the tired trend of churning out toothless terrorising tales that bring neither any fresh ideas to the tortured table or generate distinctive debauchery. Generic, recycled and synthetically titillating, Chenobyl Diaries is just another hollow horror show going through the mechanical motions of shock value.

There is nothing refreshingly disturbing about a copycat creepshow that routinely taps into the all-too-familiar atmospheric slash-and-dash spectacles of uninspired supernatural dramas.

The one main element that Chernobyl Diaries boasts is its connection to the well-received Paranormal Activity via co-screenwriter Oren Peli whose creative fingerprints were all over the thriving thriller that captured the haunting imagination of intrigued audiences world-wide. Unfortunately for Peli, his Paranormal Activity tasty terrifying touch is a shadow of its former self in the uneventful Chernobyl Diaries that begs for that same glorified attention of heralded gloom and doom.

Director Brad Parker follows the same old blueprint and embellishes nothing of original sinister substance on the basic goose-bump territory of placing periled young pretty people in harm’s way courtesy of an unsettling locale waiting to take its tenacious toll on the juvenile jailbait. Fright flicks such as Hostel and Turistas had similar premises where pimple-faced victims perished on foreign soil so the thought of the empty-minded Chernobyl Diaries aping this very same overused concept seems futile and forced.

The predictable wincing is in full force in reference to the obligatory showcasing of danger devices consisting of ominous skies, creaky staircases, rickety doors, night-time naughtiness and other unforeseen trivial threats that are otherwise already telegraphed by the audience. Surprisingly, the gore quotient in Chernobyl Diaries is minimal, lukewarm and dull for a so-called slasher flick with an attitude for mayhem. The movie takes its sweet time in building the standard suspense to the point you secretly wish that the demonic forces would hurry up the process of these mincemeat youngsters meeting their demise just to compensate for the lacklustre tension that sputters.

A cutesy romantic couple Chris and Natalie (Jesse McCartney and Olivia Taylor Dudley) and tag-a-long pal Amanda (Devin Kelley) decide to visit Chris’s brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) in Kiev. The preferred destination for the travelers was Moscow but somehow Paul thought the group would get a kick out of visiting the town known for the notorious site of the disastrous 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant debacle. Accompanying them are another couple in Norwegian Zoe (Ingrid Bolso Berdl) and Australian Michael (Nathan Phillips).

And so our gang is off to the Ukrainian town of Pripyat, the nearby venue where the Chernobyl nuclear reactor reared its ugly head almost three decades ago. The group is shown around by a Russian tour guide named Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), whose background information about the region is quite contradictory. Uri insists that Pripyat was abandoned any years ago after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor incident. However, the looming beasts of raving mad dogs and bears roaming the region suggest otherwise. Also, ominous-looking and indescribable sub-humans lurk in the shadows to compliment the creepy circumstances at hand.

Although Chernobyl Diaries tries to convey its impish-like intensity through constant jittery movement and the sensationalistic surge of sordid surprises it struggles with convincing anyone of its turbulent twitches and turns. The hand-held camerawork adds confusion and chaos while never enhancing the cautionary experience of the movie’s “boo” factor. This assembled grouping of travellers is not very exciting as the targets of turmoil as they essentially clutter in a main spot and await their manufactured, dreary fate. The shot footage looks awkward and grainy. Quite frankly, Chernobyl Diaries has all the robust edginess of waiting for a waffle iron to heat up.

Chalk up Chernobyl Diaries as another flaccid fear-and-smear session that we have seen countless times before. Illogical, inane and insipid, Parker’s best bet for jolting this mediocre narrative into something more stimulating is reactivating the Chernobyl nuclear reactor button—maybe then there will be an excuse to care what happens to the plagued protagonists in this transparent twitchy tale.

Chernobyl Diaries (Warner Bros. Pictures)
1 hr. 30 mins.
Starring: Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Dimitri Diatchenko, Devin Kelley, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Nathan Phillips, Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Milos Timotijevic
Directed by: Brad Parker
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Horror/Supernatural Drama

Critic’s Rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)

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