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Film / Chernobyl Diaries

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Chernobyl Diaries is a 2012 Horror film directed by Bradley Parker, produced by Paranormal Activity’s Oren Peli, and starring Jesse Mc Cartney, among others. It is based on the book The Diary of Lawson Oxford, also written by Oren Peli.

The film follows a group of tourists exploring the ruins of Pripyat, the town just outside the Chernobyl power plant. After managing to make their way into the city, the tourists and their guide are periodically assaulted by unidentifiable monsters that threaten the lives of all characters involved.

Tropes featured in Chernobyl Diaries include:

  • Abandoned Area: Pripyat, an abandoned city in Ukraine and quite possibly the most famous abandoned location in the world. The city's entire population was evacuated in 1986 after a nuclear reactor at the nearby Chernobyl power plant exploded, irradiating the surrounding area and rendering it uninhabitable. Both the city and the power plant have been abandoned ever since. The film reveals a government conspiracy where not everyone was evacuated from Pripyat, and those who stayed behind eventually mutated into horrific monsters who stalk and prey on people who venture into the city. The government is willing to kill anyone who discovers the mutants exist in order to keep it a secret.
  • Artistic License – History: Despite the Soviet Government's track history of indifference to their citizens, everyone was evacuated from the surrounding area of the Chernobyl disaster.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics:
    • Radiation doesn't cause the kinds of mutations seen in the film – not to the dogs, not to the fish, and certainly not to people....
    • Paul and Amanda begin suffering the effects of ARS when they find themselves right next to Reactor #4. While their aggressive symptoms aren't exactly exaggerated, they begin to occur much faster than they would in reality.
  • The Backwards Я: On one version of the poster, which if pronounced in actual Cyrillic would read "Sneyapovul Diayaies"
  • Bears Are Bad News: Double Subverted; the bear doesn't do them any harm. However, it foreshadows the arrival of much greater dangers.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Paul cares a lot about his brother. The whole Pripyat excursion is, after all, a misguided attempt to lighten up Chris and Natalie's forthcoming engagement. When Chris goes missing, he flips out.
  • Blatant Lies: Yuri assures everyone that they're safe inside his van after it breaks down, so long as they lock the doors. They aren't, and the mutants have absolutely no trouble breaking in.
  • The Casanova: Paul. One of the first things he says to Chris is about girls in Kiev fawning over Americans, and he later shamelessly flirts with the (recently single) Amanda.
  • Cat Scare: Double subverted with the bear, as it's not the half-expected small animal, but also doesn't attack.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Yuriy is killed offscreen by the cannibals. His half-eaten corpse seen later suggests his death was very messy.
    • Paul and Amanda inadvertently find themselves at the Chernobyl Nuclear plant, standing right next to the exposed reactor. As their Geiger counter goes haywire and finally breaks, the intense radiation begins to severely effect them. Both are in great pain, with their skin turning red and blistering, while Amanda can barely walk and Paul eventually loses his eyesight. Paul's suffering is cut short however when he's shot dead by Ukrainian soldiers, and Amanda has to live a little longer before she's thrown to the mutants for knowing they exist.
  • Deadly Road Trip:
    • Well, for Chris, Natalie, and Amanda, it is initially a simple road trip through Europe with an end goal in Moscow. Unfortunately, Paul comes to the scene and insists that they take a short excursion to this town called Pripyat, where, ah, a certain disaster happened several decades back. Things don't look promising for them afterward.
    • However, it is played straight with Michael and Zoe. Pripyat is one of the places they explicitly want to visit.
  • Downer Ending: Everyone dies.
  • Dwindling Party: Starts with a seven-man team, halfway through the film, one by one is killed. One seems to survive it all, but it turns out to be a Hope Spot.
  • Found Footage: The group watches a video on Chris' cell which uses the style of Found Footage films at one point, giving the survivors an idea of what they might be up against.
  • Final Girl: Subverted. Amanda is the last to survive and the last to die. Played straight in the alternate ending, where Amanda survives ...only to begin painfully transforming into one of the mutants at the hospital.
  • Foreshadowing: On the first night, the group hears a cry in the distance. Amanda points out that it sounds like a baby's cry. The next night, they figure out that they are not the only humans in the city.
  • Freak Out: Poor Natalie has devolved to this state when the group finds her after her kidnapping. She doesn't get better.
  • From Bad to Worse: When attempting to leave Pripyat for the first time, the group discover that someone or something has sabotaged their van, forcing them to stay overnight. During the night, their tour guide is murdered and Chris is badly injured. The next day, Paul and a few group members go out in search of car parts to fix the van, which they manage to find. They return to the van to find it completely destroyed, as well as Chris and his fiancée missing. Then night falls again, and they finally encounter what has been menacing them this entire time as they are pursued across the city in the dark by a pack of mutants.
  • Genre Mashup: The film is staged as a regular survival horror, but it's shot like a Found Footage film.
  • The Ghost: Chris and Paul's parents are mentioned but not seen. From the dialogues, it seems that Paul has a strained relationship with his father, something that is probably related to his choice to settle in Kiev.
  • Ghost City: Pripyat. Truth in Television. Unless you count the "radiation patients".
  • Government Conspiracy: Everyone knows that there was an accident at Pripyat's Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 and that everyone was evacuated, leaving the city empty. What they don't know is that some people were contaminated to an extent that they became, in essence, zombies. The Ukrainian government were able to isolate most of them, but some escaped and are currently roaming Pripyat. The government is still working to discreetly dispose of them, so if an outsider stumbles on even just one, they will be neutralized.
  • He Knows Too Much: Amanda gets thrown to the escaped patients at the end because she knows they exist.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Paul, Amanda, Michael, and Zoe miraculously find working parts to fix their van in an abandoned parking lot. They return to see the van flipped upside down. Chris and Natalie are nowhere to be found.
    • Amanda, while contaminated, manages to survive the ordeal and is brought to a hospital by the Ukrainian doctors. Unfortunately, they decide that she would be disposed of because she already knows too much of the Government Conspiracy.
  • Idiot Ball: After the van is sabotaged, the group sits inside at night with the dome light on. Not only are they draining the battery with no nearby options for a jump start, but make it near impossible to see what's outside, and the light would at the very least attract the feral dogs Yuriy mentioned only come out at night.
  • It Can Think: Possibly. First, the embers that Yuriy finds and quickly brushes away seem to imply that the creatures, whatever they are, still need basic needs like heat and food. Also, they are able to set up a clever trap later in the film by using the small girl to divert attention away from Natalie so they can snatch her away. Later on, however, they act more like shambling zombies, trying to come after the group as a horde.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The whole thing is really Paul's fault, but he does care about his brother.
  • Last Stand: Offscreen, an Ukrainian soldier has one when he tries to fortify himself inside an abandoned bus.
  • Meaningful Background Event: When Paul, Amanda, Michael, and Zoe are arguing about how to escape while heading back to the van, someone is walking on the far end of the road. They only notice it several seconds later, by which time he/she has disappeared.
  • My Car Hates Me: The reason why they are stranded in Pripyat is because Yuriy's van mysteriously had all its wires cut. It's implied that the radiation patients did it when they were away.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • So your little brother is going to marry his fiancee! Congratulations, now let's force him to go on a tour of Pripyat instead of someplace more romantic, complete with armed Ukrainian soldiers trying to make sure no one goes in, and get him and the woman both killed while you're at it.
    • In fact, everything Paul does makes things progressively worse. When the group discovers Yuriy's mutilated corpse and finds out that Chris and Natalie have been kidnapped, the remaining three urge, nay, beg him to let them be and escape Pripyat immediately. What does Paul do? Insist that they search for his brother. This ensures that none of them makes it out alive.
  • Never Found the Body: Chris' body is never found. The one time the movie seems to reveal it, Paul only finds his engagement ring, then it moves to a Jump Scare. Gruesomely subverted with Yuriy.
  • Non-Indicative Title: There is nothing in this film could be considered a diary, record, or account of any sort. It isn't even a Found Footage horror film, though it is shot like one.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: The Ukrainian doctors only refer to the cannibalistic mutants as radiation patients. Justified since the viewer never gets a good look at them.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Used to surprisingly good effect, as even after the very real threat becomes apparent, we never get a really good look at what's stalking the protagonists.
  • Nuclear Mutant: The Chernobyl disaster somehow mutated fish and dogs. And humans.
  • Only Sane Man: Chris, to an almost ridiculous extent.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Chris and Paul's parents. What is horrifying is that they won't even know about their deaths, since everyone who encounters the radiation patients is forcibly disappeared. On a best case scenario, they would probably be told that they went missing.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Chris gives a merciless one to Paul when the latter tries to dissuade him from following Yuriy. Of course, he is right.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: Ukrainian Guy, but still the same either way. Yuriy dies offscreen, but his corpse gets by far the worst treatment.
  • Schmuck Bait: When running from the cannibals, the group discovers what is seemingly a little girl standing in the middle of a large, open area. Instead of seeing it for the obvious trap that it is, they foolishly divert all their attention on to her as they try to communicate. This distraction allows for Natalie to be grabbed by the mutants from behind.
  • Sole Survivor: Subverted. Amanda is the last of the main cast to remain alive, but not for very long.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Yuri. For a man who is apparently Ex-Special Forces, and is implied to know of the existence of the cannibals, he makes some pretty stupid decisions throughout the film. On top of knowing the place isn't safe for tourists, after their van breaks down, Yuri decides to get out of the vehicle in the pitch black darkness, with the group's only firearm, to investigate a noise. He gets brutally mauled and devoured by the mutants.
    • Really, every main character in this film qualifies to some degree. They all make rather dimwitted decisions that either endanger themselves or the lives of others.
  • Was Once a Man: The radiation patients are former citizens of Pripyat and their mutated descendants.
    • The alternate ending implies that Amanda has begun mutating from radiation exposure into something resembling the other patients.