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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries

Continuing with films released this past weekend is one that should be really thankful that That's My Boy came out on the same day to redefine how bad cinema can be.

Distributors chose a very interesting time to release Chernobyl Diaries. On the one hand, putting it head to head against Adam Sandler's latest cinematic atrocity, That's My Boy, can't help but make it look like Citizen Kane - or if the new BFI list of the greatest films ever released is to be believed, Vertigo. (By the way, apropos of nothing, I never agreed with rating Citizen Kane as the best film of all time, but I'm really confused as to how they would replace it with any Alfred Hitchcock film other than North by Northwest.) On the other hand, it's also coming out at a time when Cabin in the Woods and Woman In Black are (only just but) still in cinemas and, boy, does it suffer in comparison.

It actually has a pretty terrific premise in that a group of young people embark on a "danger tour" through the wastelands of what is left of post-nuclear Chernobyl but, while there, they find that they might not be alone. Cool premise, terrific setting, but the film goes on to do absolutely nothing with them.

It's not so much that Chernobyl Diaries is a truly terrible film, as much as it is terribly dull, as it squanders every last bit of promise that the bare-bones plot might have once contained. Sure, it does boil down to a group of young attractive people going off to some secluded spot to get brutally and horribly murdered, but so did Cabin In The Woods and look how far that managed to twist and pull at our expectations. Chernobyl Diaries plays out exactly as you expect it to, if way less excitingly than you might hope.

For a start, rather than ever building up any sense of menace or creepiness, Chernobyl Diaries constantly goes for the cheapest of cheap jump moments and, once the bad stuff starts to happen, it devolves into the kind of baseless hysteria that precludes any sort of dynamism within its horror storytelling. Or, to put it another way, how is a film ever going to sneak under you skin and scare you when it's this busy screaming at you? It also certainly doesn't help that the promisingly desolate cinematography is quickly replaced by shoddy, shaky camera work that makes it impossible to see what's going on and harder still to care. Though, to be fair, the non-existent characterization makes it tough enough to care in the first place.

And please, don't get me started at how rubbish the reveal is of who the "monsters" were all along.


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