"Hey little brother, I hope you're having fun on your European vacation with your girlfriend and her pal. I know you said you were going to propose to her in Moscow, but instead of that, let's do something crazy-to-the-point-of-stupidity like go hang out in the shadow of a nuclear wasteland. You good with that?"
Who could resist?
Unfortunately for Chris, one of the core gang in Chernobyl Diaries, he didn't resist hard enough. And unfortunately, we have to see it in all its handheld, shaky cam glory.
Diaries follows Chris (Jesse McCartney), his girl Natalie (Olivia Dudley) and their friend Amanda (Devin Kelley) as they jet around Europe, hitting London, Paris and Frankfurt before landing in Kiev to visit Chris' brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski). Paul tries to talk the group into some "extreme tourism," consisting of a guided trip to Pripyat, the abandoned town that used to house the workers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Facility. What could go wrong, right? The girls buy in, leaving Chris, the voice of reason, outvoted.
Meet Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), ex- Special Forces. He'll be your tour guide today. You'll be joined by a chill couple, Michael (Nathan Philips) and Zoe (Ingrid Bolso Berdal). You'll travel in a boxy, camouflage-painted piece of shit of a van, riding for two hours to your Ukrainian atomic paradise. Ignore any ominous signs of warning like the armed checkpoint that won't permit you to enter. After all, Uri knows another way in, plus he has beef jerky and says it's all good.
So what if the back way is a broken down checkpoint? So what if there's freaky fish in the lake? So what if you get charged by a bear in an abandoned apartment building? Uri says "No extra charge for bear attack," okay? Imagine that, the van won't start... Hmm... Hey, what was that noise? Um, why's Uri packing heat? And how come he never came back from investigating?
Cool in concept but short on substance, Diaries delivers what you'd expect from a flick penned by Oren Peli, mastermind of the Paranormal Activity franchise. Wait, don't run! I'm not finished with my review yet!
Expect a jolt or two from this jump-scare brand of horror. There's little suspense, as you see the shocks coming a mile away; they may be in the dark half the time but you don't need night vision to see where this flick's going.
Acting-wise, what's to say? No one expects award noms for low-budget cheap thrills like this, right? All cast members do a decent job of being FTFO (freaked the... you get it). The highlight of the casting, if not the entire movie, is Natalie's perma-cleavage.
Avoid Chernobyl Diaries and its mutually assured big-time suction. It's cheaper to hit the local hardware store and smack yourself with a hammer.