The main thing I’ll always remember about Chernobyl Diaries is that I saw the trailer before every movie I watched for what felt like a goddamn year. Every movie had this trailer! Didn’t matter what genre or anything, there it was. “The Lorax? Fuck it yeah sure, Chernobyl Diaries”. I had that damn thing memorized by the time the movie was released, and by then I had almost no desire left to see it. The shitty reviews didn’t help either. But now time has passed, I haven’t seen that trailer in like 5 months, so I was ready to forgive the movie and give it a chance. Wrong move.
Chernobyl Diaries is another in a long line of movies that teaches us never to travel off the beaten path while making your way through Europe because you will either be tortured by rich people or eaten by mutants. It’s fact. They may as well just start putting that in the brochures at this point. The people in this movie clearly haven’t seen those other movies however so they hire an extreme tourism guide to lead them through a city that was abandoned during the disaster. From there people are killed, stupid decisions are made, and people yell each others names a lot.
I have many issues with this movie so let’s get cracking. The acting is pretty bland across the board but then again these are very one-dimensional characters. The dialogue feels oddly stiff. I couldn’t help but feel like the actors were told to improvise and act natural and were really bad at doing both of those things. The dialogue is your typical “Don’t be such a pussy. I’m not you’re a pussy!” type fare. You never grow attached to anyone here so once shit starts to go bad, I wasn’t too invested in what happened to a single person. Also I know it’s a horror movie staple but these people seem to make the worst decisions on a damn near constant basis. I mean I guess we’ll see how I react in the same situation (I just assume it’s inevitable) but there were definitely “what?! Why are you doing that?!” moments near constantly.
My biggest gripe with the movie really is that not much happens. It’s actually kind of boring, which is a death sentence for a horror movie. It takes a good long while before they even get to Chernobyl and it’s not as though it’s fun spending time with these people unless you like crazy lame jokes and stiff human interaction. Then you get one genuinely cool moment before they sit in a van for a while, then finally things pick up in the final 15 minutes but guess what? All that stuff is in the trailer! So once it got to the exciting stuff, I knew beat for beat what was going to happen for a while.
The one thing this movie does have going for it is the setting. Abandoned buildings and towns are naturally unsettling, mostly because 90% of the time they come with mutants. Here the location does provide for some eerie scenery and some unsettling moments, but for the most part this movie just isn’t scary. There’s a couple of cheap jump scares but I never really felt tense or on edge. Add to that a climax that feels under explained and ridiculously abrupt and friends, you don’t have yourself a quality horror movie.
Chernobyl Diaries has potential as a concept but falls apart in the execution. The characters are bland, the writing is terrible, and it’s just not very scary. In all honesty, the trailer was way better than the movie. Now may I never have to see it again for as long as I live.
Fun fact - between writing this and posting it, I saw the goddamn trailer again. I’m sorry I wrote this negative review Chernobyl Diaries, please leave me alone!!