Dual Review: Chernobyl Diaries – What a Horror Movie Should Be

Six tourists hire an extreme tour guide who takes them to the abandoned city Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. During their exploration, they soon discover they are not alone. (synopsis from www.imdb.com)

PJ CARROLL

Oren Peli, the man behind Paranormal Activity and ABC’s The River has crafted an amazing horror movie that follows six young adults as they are exploring the ruins of Chernobyl with Yuri, their guide.  The abandoned city is not as it seems and the group encounter those who live in the ruins. These inhabitants, living in the shadow of radiation fallout, include humans and animals who have not escaped radiation’s effects.

I love horror movies, but unfortunately, that love has exposed me to so many horrific themes that it is difficult for a horror movie to scare me. Chernobyl Diaries creeped me out and had me jumping in my seat in the theatre. Even when I knew something was going to happen and I could pinpoint the exact moment when it was going to occur, I still jumped due to movement, the camera angle, or the reactions of the group.  I’m pretty sure I only blinked 3 times during the entire movie. I really was scared and on edge the entire movie.

What made this movie so creepy? Let’s start with the locale. The town of Pripyat is empty. It is desolate. No birds chirp or fly, and what animals there are seem to be of the opinion that man has had his shot, now man is fair game. As the tour group explores the ruins, the quiet and desolation create an atmosphere of dread, and sadness, for the viewer.

Peli uses his filming style to advantage to create a truly creepy and terrifying movie. The camera almost seems to be an eighth person in the group. It focuses where they look, and it moves in response to their movements. The camera is shot at the same height as the others in the group during the more significant creepy and night scenes. This added a feeling of immediacy with the tour group while it avoided the traps of handheld or shaky cam (including the “seasick” feel that audiences experienced while watching The Blair Witch Project).

If you are expecting gore by the bucketful, you will be disappointed. The majority of the death scenes occur off camera, but in my opinion, this does not hurt the film at all. The movie is trying to scare us with true horror; not just trying to gross us out with buckets of blood or a plethora of guts strewn about.

I highly recommend this film to all horror fans. Even if you are no horror fan and just want to watch something new, I would still recommend this movie to you. Amazing shots and legitimate scares make this movie an example of how a horror movie should be. I’d rate this movie as a 9 out of a 10 point rating system.

 Nina Coleman

A group of young people going on a tour of the city of Pripyat, abandoned after Chernobyl nuclear disaster – what can possibly go wrong? Well, everything.

I’m not a huge fan of horror movies, so for me Chernobyl Diaries was definitely one unnerving and jump-inducing experience, to say the least. I was creeped out the moment our group entered Pripyat, long before any real danger. There is just something particularly eerie about empty cities, in this case, the impression is even stronger because Pripyat looks so frozen in time. Also, considering the devastating Chernobyl catastrophe, there is a humbling sense of sadness about the place.

The movie-makers definitely put a lot of effort into the sets and the atmosphere – the sense of emptiness is overwhelming. The actors did a pretty good job, I found the way their characters were behaving in these more-than-stressful conditions (panicking, doing very irrational things) very realistic. The environment here plays a vital role in creating the suspense, and the fact that we don’t always see exactly what is attacking only adds to the scare.

While it’s not done in the so popular today “found footage” style, the movie still looks almost like a documentary, especially since the soundtrack is practically absent, and because of the camera angles. The almost-absence of any kind of sound apart from the people in the group is another thing that adds to the creepy.

When the catastrophe occurred in 1986, the population of almost 50,000 people living in Pripyat had to evacuate in a very short period of time. The story in Chernobyl Diaries has a lot of potential, and the way the movie just scratches the surface leads me to think there might be a sequel.

Posted on by PJ Carroll



  • Cdrcoleman

    Nina:  Very good review & I will go see the film as soon as I can!  Having actually been to Pripyat, I am anxious to see just how it comes across in the movie!  Can’t wait!
    Lawrence