Credentials: 21%, Certified Rotten (Rottentomatoes.com) / 5.5 out of 10 (Imdb.com) / 31 out of 100 (Metacritic.com)
Plot: After hitting all of the usual touristy stuff, a group of twenty-somethings elect to take their European vacation to the “X-treme.” So they hire, Yuri, (Dimitri Diatchenko) Russian’s worst living special forces operative, to take them on a tour of Pripyat, the ghost town that once housed the employees of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. You know, before they were forced to evacuate after that whole “nuclear meltdown” thing. The city is surrounded by armed guards, but our heroes sneak in through its unguarded back door and spend a fun-filled day looking at empty buildings and not being impressed by the corpses of irradiated mutant animals. As per horror tradition, when it’s time to leave, the car won’t start. Also as per horror tradition, it seems the city isn’t as abandoned as everyone thought.
Why it stinks: “Chernobyl Diaries” stinks because two of its three writers are dimwits, its actors are unable to act and its rookie director (Brad Parker) is a noted visual effects wiz--- completely out of his element directing a movie with scant few visual effects worth mentioning.
Let’s start with the hacky writers. Shane (“Titanic II”) and Carey Van Dyke (“The Day the Earth Stopped”) teamed with found footage maestro Oren Peli to craft this mess. (P.S.: It’s shot with a handheld camera, but this ain’t no found footage movie, making the word “diary” in the title very unnecessary) Peli gets a pass because he’s human and we all make mistakes. His was working with the Van Dyke siblings.
The trio’s script by is rambling and moronic. I hate to admit it, but you know that dickhead in the theater laughing during the serious parts of the movie? I was that dickhead. I’m sorry but if I heard one more character call the name of another character who was clearly dead, I would’ve wet my pants.
I think it’s safe to say that at no point during the movie’s 90 some odd minute run time does a character make a single, logical, well-reasoned decision.
Even after things start to hit the fan and a few characters are killed/injured, none of the tourists seem to be in much of a hurry to get out of Pripyat. They stand around talking and bickering, playing with walkie talkies, but there’s no giddy-up.
But it’s Uri, their tour guide, who really steals the show.
Keep in mind he has special forces training. YET, he doesn’t tell a soul he’s taking these kids on this tour and has NO back-up plan whatsoever in case something goes wrong. He ignores countless warnings that something bad is going down in Pripyat. Then, he decides to wander off alone at night to investigate a mysterious noise and just starts firing his gun wildly in all directions at the first sign of trouble. Apparently it’s super easy to become special forces in Russia.
On the acting side of the ball, Dimitri Diatchenko is at least fun to watch as Yuri. He turns the character into a giant, charming Russian bear of a man, who may have been conked on the head a few times too many.
Jesse “Beautiful Soul” McCartney (nice guy brother Chris) clearly wants to be Leonardo DiCaprio, but doesn’t have anything close to the chops. He ends up coming across as a huge whinny poseur.
Jonathan Sadowski (douche bag brother Paul) is a horrible, horrible actor. The scariest part about “The Chernobyl Diaries” is that Sadowski was actually hired. Somehow this man was the best actor to audition for the part of Paul. My brain can’t process that.
Olivia Dudley (Natalie) can’t act either, but she does bring two things to the movie--- giant boobies. This girl is so bosomy it’s actually distracting. There were several scenes with Dudley in them where I can safely say I didn’t hear a word any of the characters where saying. She spends so much of the movie with her chest stuck out that I actually started to feel bad for her. That kind of posture can’t be good for your back. Get a chiropractor girl!
Because it’s just so incredibly stupid, “Chernobyl Diaries” ends up also being freaking hysterical. This is the kind of movie that you make fun of with your buddies “MST3K” style when it comes on cable late at night. None of the laughs are intentional, but hell, at least it’s good for something.
Worst of the Worst
If I had to pick, I’d say any part of the movie that wasn’t Yuri doing something incredibly, gut-bustingly stupid or the haunting landscape shots. Also, anytime Sadowski opened his trap. “CHRIS? CHRIS!”
There she blows, “The Chernobyl Diaries.” Bumblebee tuna Van Dykes.