Star Rating:

The Chernobyl Diaries

Director: Bradley Parker

Actors: Dimitri Diatchenko, Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Olivia Dudley

Release Date: Monday 30th November -0001

Genre(s): Horror

Running time: 86 minutes

I would have turned off the light. Trapped in a van that has broken down in Pripyat in the middle of the night, as 'things' throw themselves against the doors outside, I would have turned off the van light. You know a movie is working when you get sucked into the situation like that. The Chernobyl Diaries has a wonderful set up but it eventually succumbs to cliché and despite a climatic chase just peters out.

On their way to Moscow, Chris (McCartney), girlfriend Natalie (Dudley) and friend Amanda (Deven Kelley) stop off in Kiev to visit Chris' older brother, Paul (Sadowski), the family wildchild. Despite Chris' protests that Paul is untrustworthy, the travelling party are convinced to take part in some extreme tourism – like checking out the abandoned town that once held the entire workforce of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Fast forward to later: it's night, the van won't start, ex-military guide Uri (Diatchenko) has gone missing and 'something' has attacked Chris in the dark. The scared Americans, joined now by an Aussie and a Norwegian, begin to wonder if everyone was evacuated back in 1986.

What we have here is a Hills Have Eyes for this generation (we're choosing to ignore that Hills Have Eyes already had a terrific remake back in 2006 and a terrible sequel a year later). What a brilliant setting for a horror this is. With its forgotten blocks of flats with broken windows and overgrown playgrounds, visually you're in spooky territory wherever you point the camera; all you need is semi-rootable characters to be chased around it and job's a good 'un. So you would think. Director Bradley Parker gets quite lazy with what he has and doesn't cook up half the tension he should with the material available. After the aforementioned van scene, the cast are picked off one-by-one in increasingly ho-hum fashion. Boo-urns.

With a title like that and with Paranormal Activity's Oren Peli on writing duties, you'd be forgiven in thinking this was another Found Footage movie, but no. Apart from a camcorder opening, this is straight horror – there is no 'diary' as such. Despite the spine tingling mysterious setting and the odd boo moment, Chernobyl Diaries' massive potential is squandered somewhat.