If there is one thing that horror does better than pretty much every other genre out there, it is to build up an interesting premise only to crash and burn with the execution.

In fact, if I had a pound for every flick I’d sat through that reeled me in with an intriguing proposition only to fall flat on its face, then I could happily retire.

Step forward Chernobyl Diaries, the latest entry into the ‘wasted opportunity’ file.

Having died a quick death at the box office, the makers no doubt hope to cash in with a Halloween release.

But word of mouth will not be strong on this one – a forgettable fright flick that fails to make the most of the potential at its disposal.

The premise is a good one and is what attracted me to the film in the first place.

A group of US backpackers hot-footing it around Europe decide to take a detour and go on an ‘Extreme Day Trip’ with the ever-so slightly mysterious host Uri – a former Russian special forces soldier no less.

The destination? Well, you can probably guess that from the title – although the filmmakers do not trust your historical knowledge as they insist on some long-winded passages of dialogue to remind the viewer of what happened at Chernobyl.

The gang creep around the now-deserted worker town of Pripyat, in the shadow of the nuclear reactor and it is here that that the film scores high – with a great, moss-covered rubble of a location that sets the scene nicely.

The visitors plan to stay for a couple of hours, but wouldn’t you know, their van gets trashed and suddenly they are stuck.

Even worse, it quickly becomes obvious that the group are not alone – will they survive?

From then on the film simply becomes sort of The Hills Have Eyes: The Ukranian Cut, with the tourists in a desperate battle for survival.

Now that is all well and good, but surely one of the keys to a flick of this ilk being a success is the audience rooting for the gang, right?

Well, if so, then director Brad Parker really missed a step as the tourists are nothing more than annoying, right from an incredibly cheesy opening ‘here’s us in Europe’ montage.

In fact, the most interesting character is probably Uri, who appears to know more than he lets on, but the makers decide to ditch him early.

As for who the tourists are up against well we never actually see – we are led to believe they are radiation mutants of some sort, but all the scenes of carnage are so dimly lit or swiftly edited that you never actually get a single close-up.

There are also a host (and I mean loads) of false scares and cheap jolts, from a supposedly dead fish unsurprisingly springing back to life on a riverbank, through to a runaway bear taking on the role of jumping cat/pigeon that we so often see in horror films.

As I stated at the outset the Chernobyl Diaries does have things in its favour – the idea (put forward by Paranormal Activity guru Oren Peli) does hit the spot and the locations should clearly be the backdrop to a much better film.

But with a truly forgettable line-up of fodder, villains you never actually get a good look at and a final half that is nothing more than running around in dark corridors, the film disappoints far more than it entertains.

 

Extras: A decent selection it must be said, although nothing to truly quicken the pulse. Viewers get an alternate ending that does little different from the original, a deleted scene that rightly got the chop, a neat fake infomercial for ‘Uri’s Extreme Tours’ as well as a Chernobyl Conspiracy viral video and the trailer.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.