Synopsis: Chris, Natalie, and Amanda are three friends that take a trip to Russia. When they meet up with Chris’ brother Paul, he decides to take them on an “extreme tour” of Chernobyl. They reluctantly go along with two random tourists that are only in the film to die first. Once they get to the wasteland, the van they arrived in stops working and their tour guide dies. They then encounter monsters that aren’t quite zombies, but definitely like to non-specifically attack people. In the end, everyone dies.
Year Released: 2012
Director: Brad Parker (who is primarily a visual artist that has worked on the graphics for Let Me In, Fight Club, and xXx)
Director: What do you think happened to all of those people at Chernobyl?
Random Dude: They all left because of the nuclear explosion?
Director: Yeah, but what if they came back? What would they look like?
Random Dude: Probably just cancer stricken miserable people burned by radiation…
Director: How about we mash up Sloth from Goonies with aliens. That might be close. Then we’ll make them zombies that eat people.
Favorite Death: I thought for sure those two tourists we never got to know would have been the first on the chopping block, but no. This movie likes to keep their deaths clean and mysterious. They almost all happen off screen or are hidden in dark corners. Sometimes the characters don’t find the body until later in the movie, leaving our imagination to do the work for us. My favorite, however, is the “death” of Chris. We see him struggle to save Natalie in the van when that thing comes after them, but we never see him die. Paul holds out hope that he’s alive until his bitter end, but we never see Chris’ body and we never see evidence that he was killed (besides the engagement ring they find, but that’s hardly evidence). In the time it takes for a phone to stop recording a video and for Chris to hobble away with his injured leg, he either would have been eaten by something or the group would have met up with him along the way. He simply vanished and is never seen again.
Funniest Part: After the group that split up to “go get help” comes back with the cables they somehow know they needed for the van, they find that the van had been overturned and Chris and Natalie are nowhere to be found. They then discover a recording camera/phone that has a video on it. The video starts off with Natalie filming Chris asking her to marry him and then they get attacked by something. This is funny because why were they filming? Did Chris ask Natalie to start filming so they could remember this proposal forever? Like, I don’t think this is the time, dude. I realize this is included because they then get attacked and we find out that there are monsters in this movie, but it just doesn’t make sense.
What they did right: The most impressive thing about this movie is that the one gun they have does not have an unlimited clip. I counted the bullets throughout this movie. While they might have wasted every single one, there were still only 6 and I admire that.
The acting was also really well done, even down to the tourists we don’t get to meet.
Special effects and lighting: Lighting was mostly dark, a lot of the scenes were eerily lit through windows and with flashlights. Special effects were pretty good, they did a good job of showing only blurred images of the monster things to keep us confused, but upon further inspection, they were basically all Sloth from the Goonies, so we didn’t miss much. At one point, there was a bear and that was pretty cool, even though you could tell it was edited in.
What I thought would happen: I thought Paul would be the last person alive and would have to live with the guilt of losing his brother. I also thought there would be zombies, so I was half right.
Thoughts from Interviews:
In an interview with the director he was asked “you knew you had to direct this why” and he basically answered that he knew about what had happened in Pripyat, Googled it and thought it looked cool.
Apparently there were some instances where the actors were kept in the dark about certain things. The fear we see on the screen is essentially real.
When asked what he thinks the overall theme is he said “it’s a cautionary tale…I would leave it at that…a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.” (what does that even mean, dude?)
In another interview, this time with Oran Peli who (who wrote/produced this movie and both the Paranormal Activity and Insidious franchises), he states that they didn’t even go into the area before making the movie. That explains why the only things we can see of Pripyat are what you might find in a Google Image search. But heck, I believed they shot on location, so they accomplished their mission.
Oran Peli was inspired to make the movie here because of a blog post he saw once of a girl that explored Pripyet on a motorcycle.
This movie was not screened for critics before it was released.
The movie begins with three friends, Chris, Amanda, and Natalie, visiting Chris’ brother Paul in Kiev, Russia. From what occurs in this movie, we can assume Paul landed himself here while traveling. The three stay with Paul while they travel, and in one of the first few scenes, we learn that Chris and Natalie are a couple and that, on their planned trip to Moscow the next day, Chris plans to propose.
The next day rolls around, and the ADD they gave Paul is in full swing when he neglects to think about his brother’s plans and asks the group to go to Chernobyl with an “extreme tour guide.” Now, with a simple google search, I’ve ascertained that Pripyet, the town where the workers of Chernobyl lived and the location of this movie, is about 4 hours from Kiev. However, we simply see the troupe walk down to the travel shop and meet their tour guide. Gotta love American made films of foreign countries.
Anyway, we then meet Uri, their tour guide. He works alone and takes people to Pripyet on a consistent basis in his creepy camo van with no seat belts. At this juncture, we also meet Zoe and Michael, two other tourists who are from Norway and Australia. Upon trying to enter the town on the normal route, Uri tells everyone they can’t go on their trip. However, because the years of living in Russia have taught Paul nothing, he gets pissy and essentially forces Uri to go in anyway, down a secret entrance only Uri knows about.
This is, of course, where all of the issues start.
The group gets out of the van and walks around for a bit, exploring the desecrated town. They take photos and are nearly attacked by a bear. It’s all fun and games until they get back to the van. Although the windows are still in tact and it doesn’t look like an animal could have had access to them, the non-descript wires are frayed and the van won’t start. You’d think, being an extreme tour guide, Uri would have a tool kit or some knowledge of the van he takes everywhere, but alas, this is not that kind of movie.
So they’re all stuck in this van and at one point, Uri leaves to investigate a strange noise, gun in hand. For some reason, Chris follows him with nothing but a flashlight. Uri is killed, Chris is injured, and somehow the nondescript wires that were chewed through didn’t affect the light so we can see all of this happen.
The group spends the night in the van and, after being attacked by some strange dogs, they go to sleep. In the morning, they decide to separate. All but Natalie and Chris leave the van to hike back to the checkpoint to get help. On their way, however, they find an abandoned parking lot. Paul is overjoyed because now he can get the nondescript cables needed to fix the van. Michael then finds a mysterious radio that can somehow communicate with the van. They contact Chris and Natalie, tell them they are coming back, and the day is saved.
Unfortunately when they return, the van is overturned and Natalie and Chris are nowhere to be found. The team then switches gears from getting to the checkpoint to saving Chris and Natalie. They only find Natalie who is somehow completely unharmed even after the video they recorded before the van was destroyed showed her being tossed upside down in a van and carried off by some large thing.
Through their journey, they meet up with wild animals, rickety bridges, and zombie monster things. These monsters are strange. Much like the monsters we’ve been dealing with since The Descent, they don’t have a reason to be attacking people. These tourists are technically trespassing, but it’s not their property to protect. Also, we don’t see them actually attack anyone, we just assume that’s what they’re doing because the characters that are in peril are screaming.
The rest of the movie is spent trying to escape these things and failing. Michael, Zoe, and Natalie all die, leaving Amanda and Paul to be forced closer and closer to the radioactive reactor as they attempt to escape this hell hole.
The thing is, with the very light research I did on radioactive poisoning, they would have started experiencing symptoms within the first hour of being there. However, in this movie, they don’t actually start experiencing symptoms until they’re essentially inside the reactor. Only then does their skin start to burn and their vision blur. Before that, they would have had to deal with vomiting, weakness, dizziness, and diarrhea.
In the end, Paul and Amanda see some soldiers and a large vehicle coming at them. Even though they are both audibly screaming for help, the soldiers can apparently not tell the difference between humans and monsters. But wait, that fact is about to make even less sense!
The soldiers then turn out to be researchers/scientists of some kind and take Amanda in after they find her. They explain she was in the reactor and the things she saw were patients. We see glimpses of science labs and radiation warning signs all over the place. Therefore, we can deduce that these people are researching these monsters and could have very well told the difference between a verbal human and a non-verbal monster.
They tell Amanda that she is in a hospital and that they’re going to help her, but rather than stay true to their word, they muse to each other in Russian that she’s seen too much and locks her in a dark cell with a bunch of monsters to be eaten.
Now, if they didn’t want her to survive, they could have just left her next to the reactor and stuck around until she was dead, but the movie gets points for giving us a reason for the monsters to exist, so I suppose I can’t get too mad.
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