Sunday, May 6, 2018

Dammit, Paul! We Can’t Take You Nowhere!

So, 2012's Chernobyl Diaries, a movie that I was trying to see when it came out, but just never got around to it. Needless to say, I was excited to get the chance to finally check this one out.

First thing’s first. I have never really been one to completely listen to critics - particularly when it comes to horror movies. Even the best critics sometimes miss the entire point of a horror movie. That being said, usually, Rotten Tomatoes and I have been pretty much of the same mind when it comes to horror. So, you can imagine my surprise upon finding that, once again, me and RT have a difference of opinion. RT gave Chernobyl Diaries a whopping 17%, leaving me to doubt whether or not we were ever friends to begin with. RT, how could you? I thought we had a real connection!

Second thing is that I have to correct myself on my initial description. This is not a found footage movie. In actuality, this is a found footage style movie. That is to say that the movie is not pretending it’s some lost tape found after an extensive investigation. It’s more like how Texas Chainsaw was shot like a documentary, but not really a documentary. The style of the movie is expected, coming from Oren Peli who wrote the script. Yes, that’s the same Oren Peli behind the Paranormal Activity movies, which, incidentally, I am not ashamed to say I enjoyed immensely. The Paranormal Activity movies are on my “unabashed love” list. So there.

Well, with exception to the last one. That one was trash.

So, Chernobyl Diaries starring Jonathan Sadowski, Nathan Phillips, Jesse McCartney, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Devin Kelley, Dimitri Diatchenko, and Ingrid Bolso Berdal follows the same kind of found footage vein. It starts with various cell phone footage of three people, Chris (McCartney), Natalie (Dudley) and Amanda (Kelley), living it up on vacation in Europe. It becomes clear that they are meeting up with Chris’ brother Paul (Sadowski).

After meeting up with him, they have a nice night out, during which Chris reveals that he’s going to propose to his girlfriend Natalie, once they reach Moscow. Paul is stoked (as well he should be). The next morning, Paul gets the bright idea to book a tour of a little town just a little ways from Chernobyl. “It’ll be fun!” he says. “We’ll take some pictures and be back in time for dinner!” he says.

Initially, everyone’s all: “Wait. Chernboyl? Like nuclear accident Chernobyl? Are you crazy?” But Paul assures everyone that it’s totally safe and the guide has been doing the tour for years and besides it’s not even in Chernobyl anyway it’s the town next to it quit trippin’, etc, etc, etc.

So, they meet the tour guy, Uri (Diatchenko), who they note is a former marine so, yeah, he’ll keep them safe, right?

All right, Paul, Chris, Natalie, Amanda and their new friends who showed up at the last minute, newlyweds, Zoe (Berdal) and Michael (Phillips). They all pile into an old beat up van and head out to the little town of Pripyat. Yay, Road Trip!

When they get there, there’s a blockade and they’re told they can’t go through. Uri says it’s never happened before, but never you mind, children! There’s more than one way to skin a Pripyat!

They get into the abandoned town and everything is copacetic until they’re almost mauled to death by a bear. Well...maybe not almost mauled to death, but definitely almost jump scared to death.

Upon the appearance of the bear, Uri goes; “Yeah, that’s not really supposed to happen. Let’s get out of dodge.” They head back to the van where, surprise, surprise something has chewed through the wires of the van. It’s about there that things get progressively bad. Let’s see if I can list the awful in order of sequence. (Spoilers ahead):

1. Uri gets eaten looking for help.

2. Chris’ leg gets broken or mauled or something trying to escape whatever attacked Uri.

3. Monster attacks.

4. Dog Attacks.

5. Something rips apart the van and eats Chris.

6. Something drags Natalie off into the dark and eats her.

7. Michael falls into a lake and fish try to eat Michael, but he lives through that (Yay!)

8. Only to sacrifice himself so that the remaining people survive.(Boo!)

9. Zoe buys it falling into a mosh pit of monsters

10. Running

11. Radiation Poisoning
12. Blinded and radiation burned Paul gets shot

13. Amanda gets thrown into a room full of hungry monsters or zombies or monsters. Who knows?

Pretty sure I didn’t leave anything out.

(Paul's voice "Yay! It'll be fun!  We'll take some pictures and be done by sunset")  Dammit, Paul.

This one gets a jewel, though, despite it’s poor rating. There is a decent build up of tension and Peli uses the old “what you don’t really see is way scarier than if you saw it” technique, which I’ve always been a fan of. I mean, if you can scare an audience with just shadows and smoke, that’s impressive and it shows a clear understanding of what makes horror work.

Okay, so, next week “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things”. This is another one that kept passing me by, even though it’s clearly my kind of movie. Hoping for greatness once again.

-- O~

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