Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bradley Parker's Chernobyl Diaries - Nuclear Damnation

The events of Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986 are an inkling to nuclear holocaust. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the country which was, then under USSR rule. How bad is this? The radiation is worse than 400 atomic bombs. Some 50,000 people were evacuated within 5 minutes, and the battle to contain and avert catastrophe involved 500,000 people. Unfortunately, the effects are long term: cancer, birth defects and deformities, displacement. The city of Pripyat was abandoned, now a virtual ghost town.

Bradley Parker’sChernobyl Diaries” involves Chris, Paul, Amanda, Natalie, Michael and Zoe (Jesse McCart­ney, Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Nathan Phillips and Ingrid Bolso Berdal) who backpack their way through Europe. Upon reaching Ukraine, Paul, Chris’ adventurous elder brother, convinces his troop to join an “extreme tour” at the ghost city of Pripyat which was abandoned some 25 years ago due to nuclear accident. Uri (Dimitri Diachenko), their guide, takes them to the derelict houses which are now falling apart. But in the spooky corners of the buildings and the creepy surrounding woodlands lurk creatures that seem to hover in search of prey. Danger didn’t manifest until their rundown van stalls, leaving them stranded. Soon, the six tourists and their guide are gradually hounded in stark darkness. Could they be wild animals? Or something else?

Oren Peli, director of “Paranormal Activity”, co-wrote the script for “Chernobyl Diaries”. The cinematic flourishes: handheld cameras, use of found footages, almost-documentary style storytelling, are found here.  Jesse McCartney is engrossing as Chris who was going to propose to his girl friend in Russia. The film itself is moderately diverting, and like many other films of its genre, is populated by stupid characters who seek damnation more than survival. Yes, the characters soon drop like flies as they move away from their predator. Parker successfully creates an atmosphere of isolation. The chase scenes are brisk and frightening. But the nagging question rankles like a cheap paint job. The layers soon come off and it becomes clear that there’s more to this story than just hungry bears and woodland jackals.

The chase scenes would have you jump from your seats. Tourism was never this exciting.

The group enters Pripyat and manage to avoid the checkpoints.

She sees a presence from her camera images.

Stranded inside the van, they need some cables to fix the engine.

Inside the nuclear reactor.

A child stands still. Isn't this tack a familiar scene in "Paranormal Activity" movies?

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