Chernobyl Diaries is a horror film set on site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Yes, you read that right. It follows a group of hapless young Americans, who, as their travels around Europe bring them to Kiev, somewhat cautiously agree to take a guided tour to Pripyat, the abandoned Ukrainian city within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Of course, once they reach the eery and deserted city, they realise they are not alone.
For a horror film, Chernobyl Diaries lacks any true horror. There are some genuine jump-in-your-seat fright moments, and the tension builds quite nicely in the first part of the film. It might be possible to ignore the clunky, awkward dialogue and the uninspired characters when waiting for something truly terrifying to happen – however you will wait through the whole film. By the time it brings out the big guns, the tension has already dissipated and the mutant monsters are more confusing than they are frightening. While their complete lack of clear motivation may have been overlooked were they genuinely scary, the audience is left more often than not scratching their heads at the actions.
The characters, in contrast, stand out in their believability as real people, if a little boring. The tour guide Yuri stands out as a well rounded and interesting character, with some of his motivation left intentionally shrouded in mystery to keep you guessing. Unfortunately, however, the script and dialogue is bad enough to take you out of the moment and it soon becomes difficult to care who lives and who dies.
Apart from these flaws stands the original premise, which in itself seemed disastrous to the point where it’s doubtful any great plot could have saved it. The film has rightfully drawn criticism for sensationalising the tragedy in Chernobyl. There is nothing completely essential about the location to the film’s plot and the fact remains that this is not even a horrific event that lends itself particularly well to this genre. Chernobyl Diaries could have played out almost anywhere else, which makes the decision to set it there not only in bad taste, but bad taste without any pay off. [Watch the trailer]