Bradley Parker’s Chernobyl Diaries is like an old amusement park ride. You’ve been on that ride before, and you know what to expect, but it’s a thrill while it lasts. And so goes Diaries, with that familiar formula of taking a small group of good-looking young adults, putting them in an isolated area with little chance to escape, and letting the mayhem ensue. A fun ride, but it’s not Disneyland’sTower ofTerror.
We’re introduced to three of the characters, American tourists travelling across Europewest to east, through home video clips in the found-footage style found-footage style of writer and producer Oren Peli’s wildly successful Paranormal Activity franchise. While Diaries’ quick changes to very tight hand-held shots for the duration of the film ratcheted up the tension and heightened the sense of anxiety for some of us, for others it elicited only nausea.
The three travellers, Chris, Natalie and Amanda (played by Jesse McCartney, Olivia Dudley and Devin Kelley), finally arrive inRussia to stay with Chris’s older brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski). Paul convinces the three to forego a trip toMoscow, and go on an “extreme tour” to the abandoned city ofPripyat, former home to workers of theChernobyl nuclear reactor. They reluctantly agree and, along with tour guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) and two other tourists, couple Michael and Zoe (Nathan Phillips and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), they climb into an old van and venture, or more like sneak, into the heavily guarded and isolated city.