Being a grade A Geography student, the new film, The Chernobyl Diaries should have satisfied the part of me that wanted to learn some more facts about the plant explosion, the desertion of 45,000 people from Pripyat, and the 1000 people that returned to live in the contaminated zone. Right?
Actually, it followed facts pretty well, having now just looked up them up. But even with the truth, I was only there for the horror. With Oren Peli behind it, and being one of the few fans of Paranormal Activity, I was there on release date like a big gore nerd, in a cinema of maximum twenty people, expecting to be thrilled to nightmares. After a slow start, and a random bear in a building, the first death happened, as expected, and someone got their leg bitten off…which is when I woke up.
The hand-held camera effect worked perfectly for this film, particularly in the scene with Olivia Dudley as Natalie, (hiding pretty un-shadily behind a holey worktop) where we’re introduced to the ‘cannibal contaminated patients’, aka zombies, for the first time. My fingers hovered over my ears, ready for when the zombie was going to pounce. And with my eyes half closed through the following scenes, I’m not sure how I managed to see the rest of the film. From that point on, it was pretty much GO GO GO!
To sum it up, it’s a ‘silence-followed-by-a-big-bang’ film; you know it’s coming, yet you still jump half a foot in the air. The biggest bounce I did I will have to reveal in a moment. This ‘jumpy thrills’ style isn’t necessarily everyone’s idea of a good film, but to me, a decent horror is something that actually makes me have nightmares; where I leave the cinema looking over my shoulder. Granted, I wasn’t totally craning my neck as I trotted to my car, but I did have a kind of nightmare about a mysterious black shadow that grabbed me in an abandoned castle…coincidence?
That’s the only thing I was a little let down by; the crazy cannibals remained a blurry shadow. Even in the final shot, I couldn’t quite make out what they looked like. I couldn’t even rewind and pause to have a good look. The only brief glimpse we got, and this is the part where I jumped out my seat like a frightened hippo, was of a psycho, crab-like baby bursting from a blanket. This lasted all of half a second, before it went back to the victims. Boring! I felt a bit unsatisfied really. It could, on one hand, make it scarier, knowing these ‘things’ are people, but not knowing what they look like, especially being set in a real town. But personally, I like to see my killers. Like in the film Creep, I just wanted to see what the thing looked like. And once I’d seen it, the nightmares I had! No one should ever experience a creepy, half-naked, grey goblin shrieking at you for no plausible reason.
Overall, I was pretty impressed, especially after seeing The Pact a week before and being a little disappointed. I recommend it if you like a little zombie and the ‘scare-your-pants-off’ treatment, but if not, you should just wait for it to come on Channel 4. I have no doubt that they will claim first dibs to air this one.