I went into ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ knowing nothing about the film, I hadn’t even seen a trailer, I’d only seen the poster when the film was first released in cinemas and knew that it was a horror film. As such I went into the film with no expectations or preconceptions of what I’d be in for.
The film starts off well, taking it’s time to establish its cast of characters instead of just jumping into the action. The film also starts with a great fake-out as it starts with scenes of hand held camera footage, leading me to believe that the film was going to be yet another ‘found footage’ film, before shifting to a traditionally shot film. It was actually very refreshing to watch a film that was not ‘found footage’ as many of the new horror films have begun taking up the format.
The film focuses on a group of six tourists and their tour guide who go on an extreme tour of Prypiat, an abandoned town that sits beside the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. The city of Prypiat is amazingly beautiful and eerie all at the same time. The massive, abandoned buildings, the over grown streets and long forgotten everyday artefacts creates a real sense of a very real world horror. It would be very easy to visit the location and become both awed and frightened by what you see. These locations give the film a sense of scope and beauty that set it apart from a lot of other horror films that tend to focus on tight, confining spaces.
The plot begins to build well, giving you time to get to know the characters and explore the location of Prypiat as they do before the tension begins to ramp up. Unfortunately thought once the tension builds to a certain point it stops growing. From the first scares to the last there is little to no escalation in tension, no growth to the threat. The threat itself begins well enough, with the first encounter leaving it very vague as to what it is, however, once you become aware of what the threat is you can quickly loose interest.
The film does have one of the best animal scares though. Where many films will have a cat or a dog suddenly jumping out at a tense moment Chernobyl Diaries takes this formula and puts its own spin on it, and creates the most memorable moment in the film.
Chernobyl Diaries is a fairly standard by-the-numbers horror film that adds nothing new to the genre or tries anything particularly innovative. That being said it does have a few stand out moments and the locations are wonderful to look at and create a visual style that not many other films share.
A fairly competent horror film that is definitely worth a watch, even though it may not appeal to everyone’s tastes.