Thursday, October 4, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Chernobyl Diaries

2012, Bradley Parker -- download

You would believe, from the trailers and from the fame of the screenwriter (Oran Peli of Paranormal Activity) that this was going to be a shaky handycam movie.  In fact, other than some brief moments at the beginning and some expected "use it to see in the dark" the movie is pretty much standard a normal shaky cam movie, a little rough around the steadycam edges on purpose... for effect.  Yeah, normally I am not that bothered by such camera work but its beginning to wear on me.  But you expect this from a Peli vehicle even if it was directed by a guy mostly known for his visual effects in other movies.

The plot is actually pretty compelling -- some young tourists come to Ukraine to see the brother of one.  He is a bit of a pain but fun to hang out with and proves it by suggesting they join his buddy Yuri for a tour of Chernobyl.  OK, not the reactor site itself, but at least the city on its edge, Pripyat.  It has been over 20 years since the disaster and the ambient radiation has lowered enough to allow a few hours of urban ruin exploration.  Of course, things don't go as planned.  There are boogey men in the abandoned buildings and you know how well shrieking tourists do under those conditions.

I honestly came at this movie with the assumption they had actually shot it in Pripyat.  Tours of the ruins are actually possible but unfortunately, the movie was not shot there.  Considering how disappointing  the rest of the movie is, this just clinches it for me.  The movie is a cliche of scary things in the dark, monsters that can see better in the dark than you can.  There are some tense scenes as our main characters wander the tunnels beneath the city but it ended almost as if the screenplay had understood the great premise but had no clue how to actually bring it all to a climax.  The most enthralling scenes are actually those through the eyes of the photographer documenting a fascinating ruin, like so many photobloggers have done.  But I suppose if I want that, I can actually go to a real gallery of such shots.