Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures
Review in A Hurry: Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli puts down the shaky cam and heads to the Ukraine. A group of young, attractive, and seriously naive "extreme tourists" pay a local to visit the abandoned streets of nuclear Chernobyl. The setting is genuinely creepy, but the last act emits low-level thrills.
The Bigger Picture: Seven people—six young and attractive tourists (Jesse McCartney, Olivia Dudley, Devin Kelley, Nathan Phillips, Jonathan Sadowski and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and their guide (Dimitri Diatchenko)—set out to explore the still radioactive wasteland of Pripyat, the district where the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers lived. The visitors' first warning that something's a bit off: a lake with oversize fish. Their second warning: a radiated grizzly bear forging for food in an abandoned housing complex.
For the first 40 minutes, the freaked out vacationers' trip gets worse with every click of their portable radiation meter.
The story by Peli plays out like an Eastern European Silent Hill (they even find a trusty map!) effectively revealing just enough. A broken down Ferris wheel. Something or someone just off in the distance. Rabid reactor dogs.
Best is the unseen creep factor. After being told that Pripyat is safe for short visits (a few hours or less), the tourists' van mysteriously breaks down. Staying through the night—and beyond—means that every step the group takes makes them more toxic. Even if they survive, they're still doomed.
Where the story is heads is far too familiar. After the disappearance of their guide, one of the travelers gets bitten, which leads to more exploration. Enter the humanoid beasties that are way too The Hills Have Eyes-like: bulging eyes, mutations galore. And when ya think about it, why are these fallout folks terrorizing the outsiders anyways? No reason is even hinted at other than the tourists look like the stepped off the set of The Vampire Diaries.
On second thought that probably is a good enough reason.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Surprisingly, the sound effects resist the urge to boom and shriek. It's far more unsettling to let the tension build naturally, which is where Chernobyl really shines.