Carefree young Americans on a European holiday disport through various photo opportunities during the opening minutes of Chernobyl Diaries. Their frivolity, however, is, as one might expect in a horror movie (or any movie set in the Ukraine, for that matter), short-lived. Impulsive Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) convinces his brother and other friends to go in for a bit of “extreme tourism” by visiting the abandoned town of Pripyat, once home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear complex – and, in a scenario reminiscent of The Hills Have Eyes, the group discovers that they are not alone. The menace’s true nature is wisely withheld from the audience during the film’s first half, and shot with minimal revelation when it finally does appear, so that it never loses mystique and generates high levels of tension. Consequently, prospective trekkers on this journey into fright may prefer to watch it with all of the lights safely on.
4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Chernobyl Diaries is:
5. Mildly feminist. Paul is saved by one of the girls.
4. Moderately anti-family. Paul comes from a dysfunctional family. The brothers’ connection is a mutual liability.
3. Anti-state. Chernobyl is a relic of statist failure. Secretive authorities maintain a cover-up of present conditions in Pripyat.
2. Green. “Nature has reclaimed its rightful home.” The savagery experienced by the protagonists can be interpreted as an environmental revenge directed at man for his arrogant scientific meddling in fields of taboo knowledge. Vegetation and rot have overtaken Pripyat, with weeds having sprouted up in a gym and other interiors.
1. Anti-Slav. Tour guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) is a decent, if somewhat dishonest, man, while other representative Ukrainians include rude, sexually aggressive young Kievans and the unfriendly checkpoint sentries outside the forbidden zone. More fundamentally, the nocturnal, radioactive threat in Chernobyl Diaries hints at Hollywood’s paranoia that, somewhere under Eastern Europe’s tenuous veneer of post-Soviet reform and democratic openness, there seethes something brutal, subhuman, and probably innately anti-Semitic.