Translate This Page!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries (2012) Horror Monsters

Chernobyl Diaries (2012) - SPOILERS ALL THOUGH THIS!!!!  There really is no way we can talk about this film's absolute inability to perform as a horror film without spoiling the movie. So I will take the low road here and completely spoil this film. If you do not want it to be spoiled for you PLEASE stop reading now.
 The Chernobyl Diaries is the story of  Americans in Russia where an exotic trip to the nuclear zone, the city of Prypiat around the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant goes horribly wrong. Chris (Jesse McCartney), Amanda (Devin Kelley), and Natalie (Olivia Dudley) track down Chris's brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) in Kiev as the travel the world. The setup is not quick in this film, we get several scenes of different places the group visits before they arrive at the brother's place in Russia. After a night of drinking Paul tells them that he has arranged a special tour in the radiation zone of the power plant which in real life melted down in April of 1986. So they are there 26 years later the radiation low enough to explore a world totally abandoned by humans. Some 350,000 people just up and left at the spur of the moment and left absolutely everything behind.
  Paul hires Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) a former soviet special forces soldier turned extreme tour guide to bring them to an abandoned city near Chernobyl. Joined by another unrelated couple  Zoe (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and Michael (Nathan Phillips) the group climbs into Uri's van and after some initial difficulty with security forces sneak into the city. They walk around and check out buildings with Amanda taking photos and Uri explaining the disaster.  All of this set up takes about 35 minutes so the audience I was part of was starting to get board when the group finally heard a noise down the hall of one of the apartments there is this great set up piece where the group sees a pond and stops to check it out. There is this mutated fish with really big teeth dead on the bank. So we know we are going to be dealing with some mutant things later on. When Uri is making splashes in the water we see the live mutant fish swarming. It actually is a very good foreshadow if later someone falls in the water. In the buildings the sudden non supernatural scare is funny and surprising but boy what a long build up for a film that is only 90 minutes long. After this point the problems really start for the group and the viewer alike. When they decide to leave the van won't start, but it is not just that it won't start it has been sabotaged. It looks like someone has fucked with the distributor but this group does not seem interested in this point. Instead they quickly are turning on each other about how they got into the situation. Certainly it should have been the entire conversation, who did it?, Why they did it? but nary a word is spoken just Chris blaming his brother and Paul blaming Uri. What the fuck are these people even awake? Someone came into your van and trashed your ride and you are more into blaming each other than realizing you are in danger?
 Staying in the van for the night seems like a good idea, with a 13 mile hike out the next day it seems wise. Problem is that this film is waiting for nightfall and the chance to scare us. It does not take long for noises off in the dark to pull the curious Uri from the safety of the van. It makes sense that if someone is comfortable exploring in the dark it is the former soldier. Chris goes along for good measure and then something happens. We hear the yelling but don't get to see the attack that happens off camera. What kind of a horror movie has something happen off camera? One that does not want to spend any money at all. So Paul and everyone hears the shouts and Paul heads out and drags his brother back with a pretty severely wounded leg. Wild dogs are in close pursuit but that is not the extent of the attack. Being in the van they are safe but we learn Uri was not so lucky. We also learn that it was not just dogs but again the film fails. Chris does not say what else attacked them and no one questions him. WTF! At this point we are a good 50 minutes into the film and nothing has been seen. The characters that did see things, just don't want to talk about it and apparently these "future dead people" he is traveling with are fine with not knowing the danger. We here that it was not just dogs but that is all. You would think that Chris would describe in full his experience but it is just a horrible lead to leave the audience guessing. It should leave the other characters guessing too but they just ignore the comment. This is particularly frustrating as a viewer and at this point I am sort of saying Fuck this movie. It unfortunately is not its worse offense.
  After spending the night in the van they start a conversation about hiking out. Only then does anyone note that Chris has a bad leg and is not going anywhere. To recap these people have been sitting in a van all night long, with no radio or board game or weed and this is the first time that anyone notices that Chris is not going anywhere on his mangled leg. I guess this is what happens when idiots are put into this kind of situation. So some will leave and some will stay waiting for help. The group that leaves spends the next ten minutes of film time walking away from the van and avoiding the dog pack and find a similar van to the one they are driving. They explore a bus that has been fortified against attack, with obvious bullet holes from the inside towards whatever was attacking it from outside. Whoever was in there eventually lost and the bus is abandon except for some blood. Remarkably they get a new distributor and can head back to rescue the others. Then of course they need to hide and run and things start getting really shitty. Those dogs have spotted them and they need to run, yes outrun a pack of wild dogs. Instead of holding up in the fortified bus a hundred feet away they go running off into the open country side. Crossing an old bridge that is rotting they cross the stream the dogs don't dare to go near. Now payoffs are important and since we saw the fish earlier you would think that here comes the fish attack on a massive scale. Unfortunately though because of budget constraints or just poor writing there is no big mutant fish attack and although the dude that falls into the water gets a cut on his leg he and the girlfriend who pulls him from the water are alive and safe from the dogs. On the way back it is suddenly dark, yes they head out in the morning and after 15 minutes they find the car part but it then gets dark on the way back to the van. Maybe I dozed off or something and missed the entire day, but they did not get so off track that they were gone until dark. Fuck you Chernobyl Diaries!
  When they arrive back at the van, the overturned, onto its roof van, Chris and Natalie are gone.  Okay again, when making a horror movie NOT showing anything bad that happens is a really shitty thing to do to your audience. This film relishes not showing anything and thus it is a really shitty horror movie. At least things pick up from here, we get wandering around in the dark and scary mutant people chasing them. My memory is a bit bad and I only saw this once, because even though I had to write this review there is no way I would pay to see it a second time. So I think they find the blond Natalie and NOBODY gets the story from her of what happened to the van. Fuck you Chernobyl Diaries! Instead they just wander around in the dark and we finally get to that creepy scene where the little girl is standing and they see her back. In the preview it is really scary and Natalie is dragged into the darkness down the stairs. It happens just like that except we see what the reaction is from the rest of the group. They see her vanish and run after her but she is gone, at the bottom of the long stairway is a longer corridor but in both directions is emptiness. It just is not physically possible that she is completely gone. Again we never actually see what happens to her this movie is all about what not to do in a horror movie. We see more and more of the mutant people who are the problem. Hell their escape from the hospital is why the area was closed off for the day.  They create the last 30 minutes of the film where one by one the tourists are knocked off as they flee through underground passages from these cannibalistic mutants. In the end there is a semblance of an explanation but at that point you are just wishing this shit would be over. Even in the most tense parts the creatures are only revealed in blurry glimpses and shaky camera flashes leaving the viewer again wondering if there was any budget at all for effects. I was so angry by the time this movie ended that when my daughter and I started talking about the film we could only say negative things about it. So Fuck You Chernobyl Diaries!
Rating (2.5) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others

Monday, May 21, 2012

Haywire (2011)

Haywire (2011) -  QUICK HIT! After hurting my back digging in the garden yesterday I settled onto the couch with an icepack and watched this thriller action film starring MMA fighter Gina Carano. She plays Mallory Kane a secret operative who is set up by her boss/ex? She figures it out and comes for him as one would expect in a film with such a scenario. It is an action film but boy was it missing something? For a while it was hard to put my finger on it. The actions scenes filled with MMA fight moves were well done and Carano is expertly trained to fit the roll. The fight scenes were done without a soundtrack making the grunting and panting the more noticeable and believable. Still something was missing, in the end it is a clear story narrative. Because Carano is not an actor, director Steven Soderbergh could not rely on her to carry the film. Instead he split the story into a collection of disjointed flashbacks told by Carano to a hostage as they drive down a wintery road. This fracturing really took the wind out of the first third of the film and failed to build into a compelling climax later on. Soderbergh also just made the film too quiet, which can work if the actor being focused on is compelling but in this film that is not the case, so instead the quiet was boring. Included in the boredom was reference to foreign locations that were never explored. So if you are in Barcelona or Dublin one would think that a way to make the movie more interesting would be to show some really recognizable locations in those cities. Instead the camera is close and personal the entire time meaning it did not matter where the characters were. Also in an action film it is good to have a very bad Bad Guy but this film had the quiet and coniving Kenneth who just was not threatening in any way. Her showed little emotion as we learn he set Mallory up, and really does nothing to show what a prick he is. There just was not a active evil in him it was more a passive bad.
  As stated Carano was poor at the acting side and I guess because of this limitation had very few lines, the supporting cast Ewan McGregor as her boss and bad guy Kenneth, Michael Angarano as her hostage, who really had little to do except be afraid. Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton and Antonio Banderas all were adequate. Still though because the story was so poorly told there had to be a scene in the last quarter of the film that explained what happened in the film we just watched. If there is a sign of a weak story this is it. The writer or director gets to the point that they give up and just tells the story through exposition between a couple character. So needless to say I will not be recommending this film. It may be that I just didn't understand what the film makers were trying to do but it did not work for me.
Rating (4.0) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.