There are great movies, good movies, average movies, halfway decent movies, and movies you'll never forget -- no matter how hard you try. I am here to try to help you navigate through them, to help you choose your movies so you can spend your money (and your time) wisely.
And yes, these reviews are being copyrighted as they are written.
A group of Americans (and two Aussies) go with a former Russian Special Forces tour guide on an "extreme tour" near probably the most infamous man-made disaster site in history. What could possibly go wrong?
"Chernobyl Diaries" (2012) directed by Bradley Parker written by Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke
starring Jonathan Sadowski, Jesse McCartney, Olivia Dudley, Devin Kelley, Dimitri Diatchenko, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolso Berdal
How is it?
It never quite figure out what it wanted to be until about half an hour from the end -- when it was too late, and so it decided to be desperately predictable and average.
The actors and actresses did well with what they had, which were by and large cardboard characters. Up until the script just became overrun with so many cliches there was no room for originality they generally managed to make things interesting. Dimitri Diatchenko as Uri the Extreme Tour Guide gave the best performance by far in the film, and it was genuinely a downer when Uri went the way of all tour guides in horror films. The film lacked a great deal once he was gone, which was too soon.
Behind the Camera
The film has a very good visual sense. Director Bradley Parker knows visuals. This is his directorial debut, after working in visual effects since the very late 1990s. And oddly, it's the atmosphere of the film that lets it down. Parker never really commits to the horror but leaves it just out of camera range or just out of focus in the dark, and so the movie audience never gets the roller coaster effect, only a series of close calls, dark corners, and the characters experiencing mounting horror without the audience being in it with them. The audience gets drowned in atmosphere until about the last half hour when things start moving quickly, just in very formulaic ways, and when the ending comes it's just... well, there, having been expected. It's not all Parker's fault.
It's Oren Peli's. He's the man who brought Paranormal Acitivies 1, 2, 3 and soon 4. His general schtick is the horrors being left to audience imagination, and that can work really well for some things. With this film it comes across rather forced, as a gimmick. The story is interesting at first, but the screenplay doesn't serve it well. By the end it's down to clicking off the ticky boxes for horror movie conventions, and the audience doesn't really care because there's nothing new or original about it. It's just there. It's almost perfectly average.
"It's almost perfectly average." That really covers it. It's worth a see if you can pay $5 like I did to see it matinee and you're into the genre. Otherwise wait for it to be on Netflix streaming in two or three months.