I’m back, and oh my god, I have a lot of films to
insult review. Let’s crack on with Chernobyl Diaries. Originally my review of this film was going to go something like this:
Stupid, stupid, stupid, STUPID film!!!
But then I thought about it some more and I realised I actually had quite a lot to say about this movie and none of it good. So yeah – spoilers from the off.
Let’s put aside for the moment that setting a mutant-cannibal film on the site of Chernobyl is about as appropriate as a film about Bikini-Vampire-Nazis set at Auschwitz. Let’s also put to one side the issue that virtually NOTHING in fiction could ever be as horrific as the events that actually took place as a result of this monumental disaster and try to review this film on it’s own merits…
It doesn’t have any.
Ok, ok so I’m being a bit unfair. There are one or two redeeming features. The shots of the deserted city are genuinely chilling and disturbing. It’s something akin to the scene in 28 Days Later where the recently revived Cillian Murphy wanders the streets of a deserted London. It’s disturbing because it is so alien – yet almost beautiful because it is so poignant. But this film is not 28 Days Later. Yes these scenes are sad and chilling – but only because of the history of the site and nothing to do with the cinematography, plot or pacing. If anything, the film makers do their level best to destroy the atmosphere by having spoilt brat American tourists stamp all over it while throwing money around and generally being obnoxious.
The other moment in the film that almost manages to be disturbing is the scene where the last surviving extreme tourists have made it inside the reactor. Sadly though, this brief moment of horror is fleeting and only really manages to summon up any pathos because we know what happened to so many innocent people in real life, rather than these two shallow and boring characters.
The characters have no redeeming qualities. They are a bunch of spoilt tourists who want to poke around the site of one of the world’s most horrific disasters for shits and giggles. They then get stranded in the city. I don’t even remember their names and if I go to imdb to try and figure them out, I soon discover that these bland, disagreeable, walking-plot-devices are virtually indistinguishable from one another. There’s the savvy brunette who I will nick-name Skeletor, the blonde girlfriend who we will call Boobs, the two brothers Obnoxious and Sap, the ubiquitous Aussie backpacker and his equally indispensable Scandinavian girlfriend. Oh and Uri, the van driver. I couldn’t remember his name either, but as he’s the only Russian in an American film it was gonna be Uri, right?
Anyway they all die – and deservedly so. Most of them get picked off by the mutant-cannibals who are running around the city. Well, I assume they were mutants – it was actually very hard to tell because we NEVER SEE ANY OF THEM – except for a few blurry seconds as they run at the camera screaming. Basically, these creatures have escaped from some sort of local…mutant cannibal detention centre? I don’t know – all I know is that the evil Russians are keeping them locked up and secret. All the tourists either get eaten by them or – in the case of Skeletor (who had no meat on her anyway) – infected with radiation poisoning and thrown into a cell with yet more mutant-cannibals. Why? Who knows, that’s just what evil Russians do.
That’s about as complex as the plot of this movie gets. There’s some boring rubbish about Sap wanting to propose to Boobs and Obnoxious being an irresponsible brother…because that’s the kind of plot you want from a movie set against the horrific backdrop of Chernobyl.
Ok, now the gloves come off. Let’s address the controversy surrounding this film.
Let’s get one thing straight: I have no problem with any film which aims at being controversial – with the STRICT proviso that it has a reason for being so. If it is attempting to be genuinely challenging then that is a wonderful thing. I don’t have to agree with it, I don’t have to like it – but if it has something to say and the only or best way of doing that is by upsetting or challenging people then so be it. But if it is offensive simply for the sake of it or because the film-makers are too stupid or too lazy to realise or to care that the content is offensive then that film becomes just another piece of vile, unconscionable bilge consigned to celluloid.
The horror-genre is saturated with bad films and it is rare for this genre to stray into thought-provoking film-making. And this movie is about as far away from ‘thought-provoking’ as it’s possible to be. The film-makers prove to be as vacuous and soulless as their characters: and I sincerely doubt that was intentional characterisation designed to turn the lens on the viewer. Would Alcon have produced a film about Bikini-Vampire Nazis in Auschwitz? Would Warner Bros have considered distributing a movie depicting sea monsters at the site of the BP oil spill or the Boxing Day tsunami? Why, then, is it acceptable to set a cheap, pointless and brain-dead horror film at Chernobyl?
This film is offensive. Not because of the setting – but because it is lazy and badly made. It is exploitative rather than challenging and offensive in its stupidity. Just think of it this way: what kind of outrage would there be in America if a big Russian film-maker made a movie about a demon-infestation at Ground Zero? And not a good film, but a cheap, exploitative pile of shit – and then, just to really rub it in, decided to portray the American Government as the bad guys and the American people as irresponsible opportunists, willing to sell their country’s greatest tragedy as an amusement for tourists.
And that, Dear Readers, is why this film is now proudly sitting atop my list of most hated films.