Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries

Eventual Fallout

Rated: R  Some bloody images, pervasive language and violence
Release Date: May 25, 2012
Runtime:  1 hr 26 mins

Director: Brad Parker
Writers: Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke
Cast:  Devin Kelley, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips, Jonathan Sadowski, Olivia Dudley, Dimitri Diatchenko, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal

SYNOPSIS: With an idea of extreme tourism, six friends travel with a Russian tour guide to the city of Prypiat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactors and the site of the meltdown. While at the city and the surrounding nuclear installation site, they realize that they are not alone.

REVIEW: Second unit director and 
visual effects supervisor of the Joe Hill Lock and Key television pilot and Let Me In, Bradley Parker is no stranger to film. Chernobyl Diaries presents as the first film that Parker has the lead as director. Based on a screen concept by Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity 3) and a script by the grandsons of Dick Van Dyke, Shane and Carey (The Day the Earth Stopped, Mega Python vs. Gatoroid), we are hopefully going to be treated to a film as original as the European travel stopper Hostel by Eli Roth and the American Southwest travel stopper The Hills Have Eyes.
Chris (Jesse McCartney, Locke & Key), his girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Dudley, The Dictator), and her recently dumped girlfriend Amanda (Devin Kelley, The Chicago Code), during their trek through Europe, stop off in Kiev to visit Chris' brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski, Friday the 13th). Wanting to make Chris' stay into an experience, Paul sets up an extreme tourism trip to the town of Prypiat, which had served as the community for the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactors prior to the reactor meltdown that forced all of the workers, residents, and families to evacuate at a moment's notice, leaving everything behind. Led by Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko, Get Smart) of Uri's Extreme Tourism, the quartet of friends, along with backpackers Michael (Nathan Phillips, Wolf Creek) and Zoe (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, the upcoming Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters), travel to the checkpoint outside of the town where Uri tries to convince the guards to let them past. When they are rebuffed by the checkpoint guards, Uri gets the tour group to the town through a little used and bumpy access road. Once in town, Uri leads the group through the grounds and buildings, pointing out significant historical points and photo opportunities. Once their couple of hours is up and the evening sun fades, Uri loads them up into the tour van and tries to start the engine. With the electrical leads to the engine's distributor cap stripped away, the entire group finds itself stranded in the town with no communications and no way to get back to civilization. One by one, each member of the group finds themselves facing unknown dangers in animal and possibly human forms.

Oren Peli created the story and produce Chernobyl Diaries, coming up with the idea for the film after browsing the internet and coming across videos of people who did go into the town of Prypiat. At the time of the creation of the story, the town of Prypiat was considered off limits to the public due to the dangers the area posed to health and safety. Now actually open to the guided tour groups, certain areas are still restricted or off limits, and groups can not stay for longer than a few hours at a time. Oren Peli thought the idea of a suddenly abandoned town to be haunting, creepy and fascinating. The ideas of society abandoned and frozen in time, coupled with the tragedy of the Chernobyl reactor disaster and the resulting long-surviving and deadly radiation, serves as a perfect arena to encapsulate a person's fears of the unknown and uncertainty of survival Everyone can relate to the terror of being utterly stranded, and facing unknown terrors in the darkness.

Not shoot with 'found footage' like in the films in the Paranormal Activity franchise, Chernobyl Diaries still uses a documentary style of filming. Peli described the use of handheld cameras as a method to pierce the barrier between the audience and the actors. The hand-held style, according to Peli, makes him feel like he is following real people instead of actors reading lines in a script. More visceral and realistic, the documentary style allows for better scares. Since the audience can only see what the camera sees, some in the theater try to see around corners before the camera does. The use of flashlights and the dome lights in the van also add a feel of dread and uncertainty as the radioactive air darkens above the setting sun. While watching the film, you may see echoes of The Descent, Night of the Living Dead, Hostel, mostly because of the eastern block autumn surroundings and tight flashlight beam bouncing corridors.

Although the director, producers and crew wanted to shoot at Prypiat, in 2011 they were unable to shoot on location. Instead, Parker used interiors and exteriors from locations in Hungary and Serbia, splicing them together with
 his visual effects background into a workable complete version of the forbidden town of Prypiat. The audience is none the wiser as characters move effortlessly from scene to scene, building to building.  

All of the actors and actresses are relatively new to film, each with a fairly short American film resume. A horror audience does not have very high expectations for any genre film's cast (since in most films most of them get killed off fairly early on), but each of the cast in Chernobyl Diaries is capable. The biggest issue in Chernobyl Diaries are some of the plot holes and character flaws. At times the group wants to save a specific missing friend, and other times their moral code seems to be a little more flexible when it suits a purpose. Also, even when humanoid-like creatures are chasing the remaining members of the group down a labyrinth of concrete corridors, Paul continues to scream out names at the top of his lungs. Not a completely sane thing to do at the time with viscous creatures around any corner, one would think.

Chernobyl Diaries
 is a decent excursion into suspenseful terror. Maybe not as chilling as Peli's first Paranormal Activity or Eli Roth's HostelChernobyl Diaries does deliver a few scares to counteract its more silly or unrealistic moments. The creatures, or whatever they are, are kept in shadows for the most part, almost hidden too well from view. The concept is novel and interesting, and the story moves along at a healthy clip. Some key elements are vague as they pertain to the tangible threat faced by the tour group, but Chernobyl Diaries is a film worth reading - as long as the Geiger counter doesn't redline.

WORTH: DVD or Rental

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