CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Stop me if you've heard this one before: A group of young adults are told not to do something. They do it anyway and are picked off one by one by evil forces. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the plot of every unoriginal horror movie there is.
"Chernobyl Diaries" follows six characters that we'll label "Pretty Face 1-6." Pretty faces 1-4 are a group of friends that includes two brothers, one of their girlfriends and a single girl. They're joined by Pretty faces 5-6, a newlywed couple. They're on an "extreme tourism" vacation -- a tour of Chernobyl, site of the worst nuclear disaster in history.
The group and their tour guide eat up several minutes in front of the camera oohing and aahing at the sight of abandoned buildings (because we all know how awe inspiring an empty apartment complex is). When they head back to their van, its wires have been cut, and they're stranded in Chernobyl. Obviously, since this is an awful horror movie, they've told no one where they're going, so no one will be looking for them.
It's here that the movie becomes mind-numbingly dull. Wild dogs and monsters stalk the group as they attempt to leave the city. For every 15 seconds of blurry mutated monster footage, you must suffer eight minutes of moaning and wailing as the characters mourn the loss of their friends.
You won't mourn, though, because the film makes no attempt to make you care for its characters. The best horror flicks are the ones that make you sympathize with characters before they die, so their demise can deliver more of an impact. Here, two characters are getting married, two just got married, two want to have a fling and two are feuding brothers. There's no attempt to expand on this.
The brother relationship is a main focus, but the closest thing we get to a back-story is that the elder feels responsible for the bad things the younger has gone through. This is then tossed aside as eight minutes has passed, and we are shown more shaky camera footage followed by more screams from women. (It's apparently physically impossible for a man to scream in a horror movie).
And this is another problem with the movie: the camera. There was no need to use a shaky cam; it's just a pointless attempt to cash in on audiences' love for the found footage genre. Films like "The Blair Witch Project," "Cloverfield" and "Paranormal Activity" (all examples of found footage films done right) use it to good effect, but it doesn't work here -- especially with steadicam shots mixed in out of nowhere.
The effects are bad, the acting is extremely over the top (except for Jesse McCartney, who is clearly doing this because he's low on cash), the story is nothing original, the characters are one-dimensional and the ending is just a gigantic middle finger to the audience. The only good thing I can say about this film is it has a good set design.
I could overlook all of this if the film were scary. It's not. I can only be surprised by glass breaking and shots of mutants so many times before I become desensitized.
Even if you want to shut off your brain and enjoy a few scares, you're not going to get your money's worth. Do yourself a favor and rent some horror classics from directors who know how to actually craft a scary movie.