Published May 25, 2012What's more off-putting than a shoddily made "found footage" flick? One that apes the shooting style but ditches the conceit. When Chernobyl Diaries commences, it's from the perspective of one of the characters filming his friends goofing around on their European vacation.
Coming from an idea by Oren Peli, who launched the Paranormal Activity franchise, another first-person horror would be expected. Before the title even drops, however, the stylistic red herring is dropped, but the horrible shaky cam is there to stay.
It took me a few scenes to realize there wasn't yet another friend who'd been passed the camera. Nearly every scene in the movie looks like it was shot by a random person running around pointing the camera, displaying no consideration for effective framing or focus, even in the non traditional sense employed by films like REC and the aforementioned Paranormal Activity.
So, how do these one-dimensional idiots end up imperilled and why should we care? Family screw-up Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) convinces his brother, Chris (Jesse McCartney), Chris's intended fiancé, Natalie (Olivia Dudley), and her best friend, Amanda (Devin Kelley), to go on an "extreme tourism" trip to the abandoned city of Pripyat, which the workers the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and their families used to inhabit.
The foursome is joined by two honeymooners and guided by a strapping local Ukrainian ex-military man by the name of Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko). It's not too tough to guess what sort of trouble these vapid idiots will get into, but budding hack director Bradley Parker completely squanders the chance to employ anything resembling creative special effects or creature design. With the camera swinging around like a spastic bobble-head, not once do we get even a semi-clear look at the unknown assailants. Much of the action happens off camera and is completely dependant on this being one of the dumbest groups of humans imaginable, even for a horror film.
I could go on about the multifarious problems with this bland, lazy, nonsensical stinker, but why bother? A love of unintentional comedy is the only sensible reason to watch Chernobyl Diaries. (Warner)