CHERNOBYL DIARIES (15) A sluggish and laboured horror that's deeply uninvolving
COMING from the pen of Oren Peli, the writer and director of Paranormal Activity, initial concerns are raised that Chernobyl Diaries will be yet another found-footage horror.
It kicks off with camcorder footage of the holiday of a group of Americans, starting at the airport and following them on their trip around Europe.
But mercifully it quickly settles down into a straight narrative that finds a pair of brothers and their respective girlfriends on their way to Moscow.
But during a stop-off in Kiev, one of their number hits on the notion of extreme tourism.
He's found a guy who will take them all to the town of Pripyat, which was built to house the workers and families of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, and abandoned when the reactor exploded in 1986.
So with another pair of tourists they've picked up, off they set in a van with the "travel agent" they've just met to Pripyat, a desolate and seemingly lifeless place, to take photos and explore the buildings.
On returning to their van they find it won't start and that they're stranded for the night, and it soon becomes apparent they're not as alone as they thought they were.
But is it wild animals or something much worse?
It's around this point that Chernobyl Diaries starts to go off the rails, as the group's ideas about how to get back to safety and civilisation lead to the usual bouts of bad decision making prevalent in poorly conceived horrors.
It hadn't exactly been scintillating up until then, but its steady pace was tolerable, even if all we had was a bunch of anonymous actors playing empty characters given the most uninspired dialogue and whom we've been given only a short time and cursory opportunity to get to know.
But just when it should spark into life, it morphs into something pedestrian and deeply uninvolving, with an unsuccessful structure that on the one hand might be commended for not going down the usual route of having them picked off one by one, at least at first.
On the other hand though, what we do get is too sluggish and laboured a build-up for not enough pay-off and nothing in the way of interesting plot developments.
Very occasionally there's a decent use of silence to create a couple of moments of passable suspense, and one or two creepy images, but mostly there's a failure to take advantage of what visually is a very promising location.
And then in one of the few moments when something does actually happen, the filmmakers cheat and choose to show us it from the point of view of two of the characters having filmed it on their camera, a cost-cutting slap in the face for an audience hungry for something resembling actual horror.
Director: Bradley Parker
Running time: 88 mins
SEE IT IF YOU LIKED:
Silent Hill; Hostel; The Hills Have Eyes