Monday, October 22, 2012

Countdown Day 17: Chernobyl Diaries

I'm getting way behind here. I had some unfortunate news this week that has left me quite uninterested in writing. I'm trying to get myself back up to speed here, and I hope to be caught up by the big day. So I'll be doing a lot of multiple-posts-per-day until then. To begin with, I'll start with my viewing habits over the past week.

On the 16th I only had time for one movie; Chernobyl Diaries, co-written and produced by Oren Pelli, the man behind the Paranormal Activity series. Chernobyl Diaries plays strangely like a found-footage film with found-footage. The character interactions, storybeats, and acting style all seem as if the people involved should be talking directly to the camera. The word this movie most immediately brings to mind is; tiresome. Nothing about this film, beyond the location, seemed inspired or unique in any way. It's another group of carefree twenty-somethings travelling overseas and blithely partying their way through other people's backyards. It's part of the distinctly post-9/11 trend of xenophobic horror. Better not leave the safety of the good ol' USA, kids. Those foreigners, even our allies, only want to rape you, torture you, kill you, or sell you into slavery. I thought this attitude was moderately clever in Hostel, which is the first horror film I noticed it in, but ever since then it's seemed a lazy at best and thoughtlessly racist at worst.
Chernobyl Diaries also has the questionable distinction of basing it's horror on a real-life tragedy. The film follows two groups of tourists as they venture into the city of Prypiat, which lies near Chernobyl and was abandoned during that disaster. This is a real thing; people can take tours of the city now that the radiation levels have subsided, though the tours are probably not as sketchy as the one shown in this film. Some have accused the film of insensitivity, using a real tragedy as a jumping-off point for a mediocre horror film, but I call bullshit on that. The movie sets Chernobyl as it's backdrop and inspiration, but it pretty much ends there. Chernobyl Diaries never delves into the actual disaster enough to be considered exploitative. On top of that, the movie isn't distinctive enough to be offensive. It's not in the least worth getting worked up about.

Chernobyl Diaries is a movie where you know from the outset what the threat is going to be, and you know precisely how each scene is going to end. Everything goes through the motions. The location(not actually Prypiat, but Serbia and Hungary standing in) adds a nice kick to the proceedings, but that can only take it so far without the proper visual skill to carry it home. The camera tends to stick in tight and tries to build claustrophobia, but that seems counter intuitive when your setting is an entire city, abandoned overnight. There are a couple of good moments, including one really good fake-out scare, but the rest of the film feels like a missed opportunity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you seen "The Oregonian"? If you have, what did you think? Im very interested to hear what you think.