Chernobyl Diaries stars Devin Kelley, Olivia Dudley and Jesse McCartney.
Chernobyl Diaries has good credentials: It was co-written and produced by Oren Peli, the filmmaker behind Paranormal Activity, and one of its stars is the bosomy Olivia Dudley. Bouncy breasts are, of course, de rigueur in the horror genre.
The film's nuclear mutants storyline may be a titch derivative, but Chernobyl Diaries is still full of things to like. The characters are fully three-dimensional, the dialogue is believable and most of the action stems from logical circumstances.
And it's scary.
The film opens with a little tourist behaviour from the four main actors. Olivia Dudley, Devin Kelley and Jesse McCartney play Americans on a European tour, and Jonathan Sadowski plays McCartney's brother, now living in Kiev. The quartet decide to take an extreme vacation at Pripyat, the bedroom community that housed workers from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Pripyat, evacuated completely in 48 hours after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, is a bona fide ghost town.
Or maybe it isn't.
Joined by a pair of tourists, our intrepid travellers are now six. They go off with a local tour guide (Dimitri Diatchenko) and are actually refused entry into Pripyat but they soon find a way to sneak into the area. Their tour is fascinating and a bit creepy, and when the van that's going to take them home refuses to start, it's tough not to feel creeped out. As soon as night falls, they're in trouble. There are packs of wild dogs around Pripyat, and packs of … something else that attacks. Our heroes begin dying off, one by one.
The filmmakers behind Chernobyl Diaries are smart enough not to get too close to their villains, and never show the faces of the walking wounded mutants. You're just aware of them, hovering in the background, and somehow that's waaaay more frightening than anything the camera wants to show you directly. This film was not screened in advance for most press; that's generally a bad sign, but Chernobyl Diaries must be an exception to the rule. It's entertaining.