'Chernobyl Diaries' keeps most gore off-screen21/06/2012 - 12:31:33
There is no room for compassion or sentiment when it comes to making money.
More than 25 years after reactor four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, releasing radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, holiday operators in Kiev are doing a thriving trade in guided tours of the abandoned Ukrainian town of Pripyat.
The once thriving community was home to the plant’s workers and their families, and was evacuated overnight as part of the 30km radioactive exclusion zone.
Houses, factories, shops and schools remain uninhabited to this day – a ghostly relic of the worst nuclear disaster in history.
Screenwriter Oren Peli, creator of the original 'Paranormal Activity', draws inspiration from Pripyat’s demise for this thriller about a group of 20-something tourists who regret their decision to venture off the beaten track.
Some of the seven-strong cast are marked for death from the opening frames and the script clearly telegraphs the order of their demise.
Every time a character wanders off alone or drags their heels, they are severely punished.
Truly, there is safety in numbers.
Chris (Jesse McCartney), his girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley) and their photographer friend Amanda (Devin Kelley) travel around Europe, heading for Kiev where they plan to meet up with Chris’s older brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) before heading to Moscow.
Paul derails the carefully laid plans by suggesting a detour to Pripyat in the company of enigmatic tour guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko).
Despite Chris’s protestations, the four friends cram into the back of Uri’s old military van along with Australian backpacker Michael (Nathan Phillips) and his Norwegian girlfriend Zoe (Ingrid Bolso Berdal).
Armed soldiers at a checkpoint initially turn the tourists away because Pripyat is closed for maintenance so Uri takes an unguarded backwoods route instead.
“Nature has reclaimed its rightful home,” intones Uri as the van trundles into town.
Natalie gets cold feet – “This is not right guys. We’re going to end up in a Ukrainian jail!” – but the rest of the party urges her on.
Her worst fears are realised when they return from their guided tour and discover someone, or something, has sabotaged the van, stranding them in Pripyat for the night.
Chernobyl Diaries keeps most of the gore off-screen.
Dialogue is largely improvised, which accounts for the repetition of bland phrases, and the cast affect an impressive array of gasps, whimpers and blood curdling screams.
Characters repeatedly find excuses to put themselves in harm’s way, stumbling over rickety bridges or racing through claustrophobic tunnels, without any obvious escape route.
Shot in a documentary-style by director Bradley Parker, replete with juddering handheld camerawork and ambient sound, the film uses the cover of night for most of its big scares, forcing us to squint into deathly dark corridors where unspeakable horrors lurk, waiting to pounce.
Star Rating: 2½
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