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Chernobyl Diaries

4/10

Stars: Jonathan Sadowski, Jesse McCartney, Olivia Dudley, Alex Feldman, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolsř Berdal, Devin Kelley, Dimitri Diatchenko

Director: Oren Peli

The locations – deserted buildings standing in for the Russian city of Pripyat, which was abandoned in 1986 when the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant reactor Number Four exploded, releasing deadly radiation – are impressive and atmospheric and far and away the best part of anotherwise utterly undistinguished riff on the standard haunted house shocker.

The linear plot finds six young tourists who land up in Moscow after touring Europe and decide to savour an “extreme tour” which will take them for the day into Pripyat under the guidance of former Russian special forces member Diatchenko whose special forces training doesn’t appear to be of much help when, inevitably and with depressingly little dramatic impact, the borscht hits the fan again and again, removing cast members from the scene one by one, Agatha Christie fashion, as they face danger and death above and below ground.

It doesnÂ’t help that neither the actors or their characters come to life: as a result when they vanish, we donÂ’t know or care enough about them to mourn their passing. Screenplay, performances and direction effectively reduce them to little more than uninteresting soon-to-die ciphers.

Two members of the Dick Van Dyke clan, Carey and Shane Van Dyke, joined Oren Peli in scripting the post-mortem-friendly of genre clichés that carry the lame narrative. A bear rushes through an empty apartment, wild dogs prowl and strange mutant fish bare their rows of razor sharp teeth, shadows move and ‘atmospheric’ music is laid on with all the subtlety of a steam shovel and still the film fatally fails to live up to its 15 certificate. Tedium rather than terror is its main thrust.

Oh, and by the way. No diaries appear in the movie.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour.
88 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 21 Jun 2012