The Chernobyl Diaries REVIEW

Horror film publicity still featuring someone holding a torch #689,321.

Release Date: 22 June 2012
15 | 87 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros
Director: Bradley Parker
Cast: Jesse McCartney, Devin Kelley, Jonathan Sadowski, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Nathan Phillips, Olivia Taylor Dudley

Usually the most horrifying thing you confront on holiday is a filthy communal toilet befouling a rain-sodden campsite. But that’s hardly “extreme tourism”, which is the explanation given for why a group of American tourists and a couple of fellow travellers end up in the abandoned city of Pripyat. This ghost town once housed the workers who toiled in the nuclear facility of Chernobyl, but was understandably evacuated in a hurry when disaster struck one of the reactors in 1986.

It doesn’t sound like a good idea for a day trip, but then smart thinking is never the hallmark of a horror movie. So it proves as the sun goes down, the clicking of the Geiger counter and occurrence of strange noises soars, and the level of intelligence on display shrinks. Though Chernobyl Diaries is the brainchild of Oren Peli, who kick-started the current trend for found-footage horror with Paranormal Activity, he’s handed over the directorial reins to Bradley Parker, who largely resists the temptation to employ the format. What we’re left with is a rote run-and-scream wannabe scarefest that fails to deliver more than rudimentary chills.

While the VFX supervisor-turned-director has a keen eye for haunting production design and some effectively creepy location work, he’s let down by a duff script and actors who never make their thinly sketched characters come alive before they start dying. Nice, spooky scenery, then: shame about the holidaymakers.

James White

Read more of our film reviews.