Chernobyl Diaries

Extreme Tourism


24 May 2012| No Comments on Chernobyl Diaries     by Sean Chavel


The camera decides what we see and don’t see, which sucks. Chernobyl Diaries never really shows us the secret of the beasts of the abandon city beyond a flashing glimpse. Here’s a film where the director shows you what point-of-view he wants you to see. Some info behind the project: Oren Peli, of “Paranormal Activity,” serves as producer and writer. Anonymous hack Bradley Parker makes his directing debut. Together, these guys came up with an interesting horror concept but failed to cast good actors and jimmied in rehash elements in the second half.

If they went the extra mile to cast good actors, perhaps they could have entrusted them to improvise their own lines for their own in-the-moment reactions. So many scenes sound as if the actors were rigidly handcuffed to the script’s dialogue. You want to shout out your own dialogue for them to speak on their own behalf.

Instead we get a poor man’s Jake Gyllenhaal and poor man’s Frankie Muniz as brothers on a trip to Moscow (Jonathan Sadowski and Jesse McCartney portray them, respectively). Olivia Dudley has a perfect V-neck to show-off cleavage that upstages her dialogue anyway, but in all honesty, she’s the better actor amongst anyone else as the girlfriend. Devin Kelley as the other girlfriend is so bland, that you walk out with nothing specific to recall about her. A third couple, played by Nathan Phillips and Ingrid Bolso Berdal, are just unattractive enough that you hope they meet their demise first.

Why do any of these parties trust extreme tour guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko)? He says that there is still low-grade radiation contaminating Chernobyl, but it’s not too dangerous as long as the stay is temporary. Yet he takes them off-road, doesn’t provide them any radiation jumpsuits or gas masks, and says he’s been doing this for five years. OK, maybe a couple of hours of touring is safe, but how can Uri still be cancer-free after five-years of doing this? You want to take Uri aside and give him occupational advice of how to switch to a legitimate touring business.

The early parts of the movie feel patched together, but there are a few brief minutes when the film has the eerie visual power of the ruined city scenes in Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” while the panicky group scurries out of this seeming ghost town. But it’s not a ghost town really, for after dark, there are inhabitants. The rabid dogs were a good antagonist idea, and the dogs have a threatening, thresh-ready hunger about them. From there, “Diaries” gets spookier, then vicious, but it all turns into baffling and cockeyed stuff. At least give us an insight into cannibalism, right? As for the final shot, it’s an act of cynical anti-storytelling that will leave you spitting hatefully at the exit posters.

“Diaries” was principally filmed in Serbia and Hungary according to the end credits.

90 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “The Hills Have Eyes” (1977); “The Blair Witch Project” (1999); “Life After People” (2008, History Channel Documentary); “Paranormal Entity” (2009).


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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