Olivia Taylor Dudley and Dimitri Diatchenko take in the bleak view in Chernobyl Diaries.
CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Brad Parker). 85 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (May 25). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Chernobyl Diaries isn't a found-footage movie - not technically, anyway. But producer/co-writer Oren Peli (who gave us the original Paranormal Activity) and director Brad Parker appropriate the pinwheeling handheld aesthetic we've come to associate with the genre to give their horror creeper a jittery energy, amping up the suspense by forcing us to share the characters' panicked perspective.
There are no surprises, plot-wise. Chernobyl Diaries is a straightforward horror movie about a group of attractive 20-somethings whose impulsive "extreme tourism" jaunt turns into a constricting nightmare. But it works pretty well just the same.
It's basically a Eurotrip version of The Hills Have Eyes, with unassuming city folk (including Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski and Devin Kelley) served up as fodder for whatever lurks in the woods around Pripyat, the Ukraine town evacuated at the start of the Chernobyl disaster in 1987 and supposedly uninhabited ever since.
If you've seen a horror movie in the last three or four decades, you know what's going to happen to these poor kids. The characters themselves aren't nearly as interesting as the convincingly desolate Hungarian and Serbian locations.
But you can't help but be sucked into the story, even when you pretty much know, beat for beat, where it's going.