Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Chernobyl Diaries

Fall is here.  The time of year when the air gets cooler, you can buy pumpkin everything, and horror movies are in constant rotation.  I’ll be watching a lot.  I doubt I’ll review them all, but I’ll do my best.  As a result, these reviews may be shorter than usual, which probably isn’t a bad thing.

Make sure to head over to Final Girl’s blog and check out her upcoming Shocktober event.  It’s going to be awesome. 

One more note: I am in love with the Bloody Good Horror podcast and website.  I’ve been listening to them for a while, and they’re fantastic.  They know what they’re talking about, and they’re also really funny.  If you get a chance, stop by their website and check out their podcast.

To Prypiat!

The set-up is simple: six attractive people (4 friends, and 2 people that just joint them) decide to take a tour of Prypiat, the city that housed the workers and families for the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.  They go on a guided tour with a man named Yuri, who looks like he could crush a man with his bare hands.  They are initially turned back at the gates of Prypiat, but Yuri knows another way in, so they sneak their way into the city.

They take a little tour.  Walking through the streets and building overgrown with trees and whatnot.  Someone makes mention of how the city is “returning to nature”.  It kind of reminded me of Manhattan in I Am Legend, but much more real, and infinitely creepier. 
Also, there’s a bear in an apartment for some reason.

When they get back in the van, they find that it doesn’t start.  It starts to get dark.  Then terrible things happen.  There’s a noise outside the van, and someone gets attacked.  The assumption is that he was attacked by wild dogs, but not everyone in the group is convinced.

They leave the van in an attempt to find help or fix the van.  They see strange things, are stalked by creatures, and are eventually picked off one-by-one, until the final survivors are driven into one of Chernobyl’s nuclear reactors.

You're never gonna get a girl with a cry-face like that, Paul

That doesn’t sound too bad.  There were quite a few pretty creepy moments, particularly towards the end.  I could see where the movie was going pretty early on (the premise itself leads you to jump to a pretty easily reached conclusion), but it was still pretty tense.  I don’t think I ever jumped, but I was definitely unnerved a few times.

Does she have a face?  Please tell me she has a face.

But the characters were all pretty terrible.  I didn’t care about any of them.  They had a little bit of background to them, and it went something like this:
Chris was dating Natalie, and he was planning on proposing to her.  Paul is Chris’ brother, and he used to date Amanda.  They seem to get along pretty well, but he comes on a bit too strong at times.  Michael and Zoe met while backpacking (or something) and have no prior affiliation with anyone in the group.  Yuri has been doing guided tours of Prypiat for years.
That’s about it.  Outside of the relationship between Chris and Paul, they don’t really develop any of the characters.  And I didn’t really like Chris and Paul.  I had no problem with Natalie, Amanda, Zoe or Michael, but they just didn’t have much to them.  There was nothing really to hate, but there wasn’t anything to like, either.
I have mixed feelings about Yuri.  There were a couple of scenes in particular that were just really confusing.  It appeared that he had some knowledge that something kind of weird was going on, but only in a couple of scenes.  The rest of the time he seemed perfectly happy to be the good-natured tour guide.

The atmosphere was really creepy, though.  They were not actually able to shoot this at Prypiat, but they did a great job recreating the city.  Even when there wasn’t anything creepy happening, the city gave off a very eerie vibe.  It was a great idea to set the movie in Prypiat, and they pulled it off really well.

If only the rest of the movie had been as good as the setting.

I think I kind of liked this movie, but at least 80% of that was due to the setting.  Again, I didn’t really like any of the characters, which is a problem when there are so few of them.  (In my last post I talked about the amazing job Elizabeth Olsen did in Silent House.  This was the opposite of that.)   It also should have ended about 5 minutes sooner.  Just lop off the last 5 minutes and it’s a better movie.

One final note.  The marketing for this movie (and the involvement of Paranormal Activity kingpin Oren Peli) suggested that it was a found footage movie.  That was not the case at all.  There were a handful of scenes that were shown through a handheld camera, but that was a very small part of the movie. 

I can see myself watching this again.  It definitely could have been better, but it wasn’t terrible, and I enjoyed myself throughout the majority of the movie.

Rating: 3/5

The group, in happier, non-dead times

No comments: