Monday, June 24, 2013

Chernobyl Diaries

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Still don't know where the "diaries" part comes into play in this movie...or is this a gritty reboot of Anne Frank's diary?

Chernobyl Diaries – 1 out of 5

You’ve probably heard of the tragedy that was Chernobyl in school or have learned of its existence in a round about way thanks to maps based on the place in various first person shooters. I’m actually kind of surprised there hasn’t been a cheap horror film made about it before this one (of course, there could be ones out there that I’ve never heard of).

Chernobyl Diaries tells the story about some tourists looking for a little excitement, so they hire an extreme tour guide to take them to the radioactive wastelands that is Chernobyl—sadly, the extreme tour guide didn’t have any Mountain Dew immediately around him so I have my doubts about his extremeness. The group runs into some problems getting into the place as the military isn’t allowing visitors; so they are forced to sneak in. A few oddities start to spook the tour guide as they see the sights and things only get worse when they are shocked to find their vehicle sabotaged. Forced to stay the night, they learn they are not alone in Chernobyl and something is lurking in the radioactive shadows...and it wants their blood.

"No, I'm okay.  This is just great for the skin."

**Warning:  This review contains spoilers**
Simply put, this movie is boring…or maybe the director and the rest of the production was being ballsy by making absolutely nothing fucking happen the entire fucking movie!  Bold move, Chernobyl Diaries.

"I'm starting to think it may have been a small mistake to come to a town nearly
decimated by nuclear fallout."

There is almost nothing this film does right, in not just the realm of horror films, but just in film in general. While it’s cool they are using Chernobyl for the story—because, let’s face it, its tragic past is ripe for tension and terror—the problem occurs when that they don’t utilize it to the extent it needed. Director Bradley Parker, although, did a great job of crafting a tone that seemed like horror could have easily been inserted but, it seems, Parker and the screenwriters forgot the last part.

The film did a tremendous job of making the viewer feel like they are a part of the experience by giving the film a “found footage” feel without all the awful crap that comes with a “found footage” film. The camera is very active and dynamic and feels like it’s from the perspective of a person in the group that we never get to see but, unlike that awful horror sub-genre, the camera is not swinging around wildly to the point that everything is a blur and nothing is distinguishable. This was the one thing I actually walked away thinking that the movie did exceptionally well and it probably could have translated to some extra spooky scares…but, like I said, they forgot to add that part.

There's something that could possibly be scary off to the side...but, don't worry,
you don't get to see it.  Subtle horror is one thing but straight up cockblocking
your audience to terror is another.

As far as acting and the cast is concern, there was very little—almost nothing—of note going on. The characters are all generic, flat beings with no real differentiating characteristics—even from an appearance standpoint, they all look like average white people you would see standing in line at Starbucks. The story does little to feather out who these people are and, in doing so, gave me no reason to care for their existence. The only thing I learned from the film about these characters is that two of the men were brothers and one of the brothers had a girlfriend he was going to ask to marry—that’s it! I wouldn’t even know their names if it wasn’t for Wikipedia because they are literally that undeveloped and of such little consequence. In fact, I only referred to them by comparing them to other actors that I know.

One I called Kirk Cameron's Clone and the other I called the Secret Love-Child
of Leonardo DiCaprio and Frankie Muniz.

"Ha ha...I'm the easiest thing to deal with in this movie."
 The only person in the story that I really cared about, and subsequently the only one I felt actually gave a performance that was decent, was the character of the tour guide; Uri (played by Dimitri Diatchenko…who, coincidentally, is the only actor I feel deserves to have his name mentioned in this review because he’s the only one who actually gave off a performance that actually was decent—and then they fucking kill him off!).  Diatchenko had a screen presence that, while it may not scream headlining actor, it did command enough attention that he was the only character I actually cared about watching.  He didn't do much in the film and his character really is not much beyond a tour guide but he's convincing enough that his acting looks light years beyond the rest of the cast...however, the rest of the cast looked like they were busy in a rehearsal for a rehearsal so, no matter how badly Diatchenko would have come off, he still would have been easier to deal with than the group of tourists.

Seriously, look at her!  Being all...touristy and shit.

The rest of the film is just…well…weak. For a horror film, there’s very little going on that could qualify as scary. There is an attempt to set up some terrifying stuff but the attempt feels half-assed and looks like the effort put into it was just abandoned out-right in favor of some more scenes of the characters wandering around the nuclear ghost town. This is best illustrated when Uri plays a practical joke on the tour group by pretending to be pulled into the lake in Chernobyl. They all have a good laugh but when they walk away, we see there really is something lurking in the murky body of water. However, these mutant fish only come back into play once when a guy falls into the water where his leg is mildly cut and then they move on…never to return to the promise of flesh-eating fish.

"Instead of the fish, let's give them a pointless scene with a bear
...and make sure to make it not scary." - The Director.

There’s even a time when the “horror” starts to go down and one of the tourists explains that she caught a picture of something in one of the buildings. This could be creepy except for the fact it’s never expanded on and barely mentioned again after she makes this revelation. This could probably be overlooked if the film gave us some creepy shit the entire time but it doesn’t. It spends most of its time trying to craft atmosphere—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it paid off in the end, however, they spend so much time trying to mold this atmosphere that, by the time they try to utilize it, the movie is almost over.

That’s right, the horror film moment where the shit hitting the fan happens occurs only minutes before the credits show up. It was like the production lost track of time trying to establish a tone of spookiness and then realized that they were making the film run long and quickly decided to thrown in an ending that haphazardly throws in weak scares that probably should have been littered throughout the running length but just ended up at the end. The credits probably should have come with a post-credit sequence of the director shrugging his shoulders saying, “Sorry we forgot to put real scares in the film. We just got so wrapped up playing around with the characters walking about and fighting off any attempt at making our characters interesting and compelling that we forgot to put the monsters in until the end.”

Unless you count the monster that is the Muniz/DiCaprio baby.  If so, the horror
was there the entire time.

The film ends with a note that would suggest that the movie had an overall method behind its madness—that the story actually had a plot going for it the entire time but if you watch it, you realize that’s not the case as absolutely NOTHING about the film’s half-ass explanation in its ending was established. It really just ends up being a big “Fuck You” to the viewer and rubbing our noses in the fact we were just ripped off of an hour and a half watching a movie with almost nothing working for it.

If you listen closely, you can actually hear the director, off camera, whispering,
"Go fuck yourself, I got your money," to the audience.

Chernobyl Diaries, other than having a title that only has one word in it that actually applies to the film, is just a weak, go-nowhere movie that feels about as motivated to do anything as a hippie performing anything beyond explaining why pot should be legal (hippies are lazy, is what I'm getting at, and so is this movie). It’s a horror movie with no scares and a movie with nothing happening.

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