WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Usually I like to watch movies that I know will hurt me; I’m slightly masochistic that way. There are other times, however, where it’s the thrill of not knowing how things are going to pan out that excite me. Chernobyl Diaries presented me with the perfect opportunity to act out on these feelings. I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I hadn’t read any reviews or seen any trailers for it, so I was going in blind. With a 5.1 IMDB rating I figured I had a 50/50 chance of either being entertained or badly hurt, and I was pretty alright with it either way. On the whole it’s not a bad movie. It certainly gives off that ‘I’m sure we’ve been here before’ vibe, and clearly the budget wasn’t going to allow anyone to make it rain, but more or less it came together quite nicely. UNTIL THE ENDING. God, I wanted to throw something through the screen. If you decide to watch this, turn it off 10 minutes before it’s about to end and you’ll walk away having had a fairly pleasant experience. If you don’t do that, have a good pair of hard-heeled shoes at the ready and warm up your throwing arm.
Answering the great philosophical question ‘whatever happened to Jesse McCartney?’, he rocks up as Chris, a love-struck young man on holiday through the Eastern Bloc with his girlfriend Natalie and her friend Amanda. It’s a whirlwind tour of all the things the former USSR and her satellite nations have to offer, leading up to their visit to Kiev in the Ukraine where they’ll meet up with Paul, Chris’ brother. The plan was to go to Moscow after Kiev, but a night of drinking changes things slightly. As a cautionary tale, proving that nothing good will come of a story that happened on a drunken night and that starts with ‘I met a guy named Yuri…’, the quartet decide to head off on a little ‘extreme tourism’ detour to the town of Prypiat.
Now, Prypiat has a bit of a sad history. Located just outside of Chernobyl, the town was evacuated when the reactor went critical and families lost everything they had ever owned (which, behind the Iron Curtain, probably wasn’t an awful lot). Our quartet, lead by a decidedly gruff and stereotypical man named Yuri, are joined by a viking maiden named Zoe and an Australian fellow named Michael. It’s all fun and games breaking into the Exclusion Zone, playing with some mutated fish and checking for sporadic spikes in radiation levels, but there’s obviously the human angle that we need to pay attention to. The place is utterly desolate, with only the fish, a really rotten dog, one giant bear and a giant picture of Stalin on a wall to testify to the place’s existence. But when the group gets back to the van, all the wires have been disconnected a bit too efficiently to be the work of the fish, even if they had the bear helping them…
From this point the situation escalates rather rapidly and the group is plummeted into the very pits of hell and desperation. Clearly the budget wasn’t so great that we could actually get a glimpse of the monsters, but suffice to say that not everyone left Prypiat when the town was evacuated. In that time they’ve learned how to disable cars, have become horribly mutated and have lost all notions of basic house keeping. It’s all fairly standard The Hills Have Eyes stuff from here on out, with a little sprinkling of Wrong Turn thrown in for good measure, all done in a ‘kind of like, but not quite, found footage’ style. Take it or leave it, it’s a fairly decent way to spend 85 minutes if you’ve already washed your hair that night and shampooed your goldfish for the week.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Extreme doses of radiation are completely safe so long as you’re around them for less than a day.
- It’s easier to understand Ukrainian than it is to understand an Australian accent.
- No great date should end until someone’s been mauled by a radioactive bear.
- Mutants in the former USSR aren’t afraid to eat a border guard. They’re hardcore that way.
- Ukrainian medical advice indicates that running around inside the Chernobyl reactor is dangerous to your health.
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Year of Release: 2010
Genre: Sci-Fi / Horror
IMDB Rating: 3.8 / 10
Level of Awful: Medium
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
It doesn’t get much cheesier than a SyFy creature-feature produced by Roger Corman, which is exactly why I was drawn to this one 🙂 Admittedly it is more of a sci-fi movie than a horror one, but when you have the opportunity to watch a half-shark, half-octopus creature swimming around and eating its way through Mexicans you really can’t pass up an opportunity like that. This is a perfect example of a b-movie because it’s not the acting (Julia Roberts must be so proud of her brother for being in this) that makes it bad but rather the complete absurdity of the monster the characters are faced with and the microscopic budget the effects must have been made on. I enjoyed a good few giggles staring at the screen while this played while constantly muttering ‘no, no way’ to myself.
The military’s up to its old tricks again: not content with nuclear weapons, missiles or allowing Justin Bieber to go platinum they’ve decided that they need something better, something that can take out pirates (aargh matie!). So what better plan than to genetically combine a shark and an octopus? It can have the shark’s teeth and ferociousness with the octopus’ tentacles and intelligence. Of course if you’re working in a corporation like Blue Water and need to prove that the billions of dollars used to fund this little f**k you to nature was worthwhile you need to take the creature, codename S11, for a test run. And what better way to test a creature with an antenna lightly strapped onto its head that allows you to control its movements (the only thing, in fact, that stops it from escaping) than making it chase after a small boat with rapidly spinning propeller blades? As is usually the case when idiots are testing mutant man-eaters the propeller blades cut through the strap and dislodge the antenna, making it impossible to control S11, who now gladly swims away while the people back at mission control sit and vaguely ponder what should be done next.
Now you obviously can’t just let the escaped sharktopus run around the ocean on its own little mission down along the Mexican coastline so Blue Water needs to find someone with a knowledge of the waters to help them bring it back to the lab. Enter Andy Flynn, a one-time disgruntled employee of Blue Water until he asked Nathan Sands, the boss, for a raise. Thinking that asking for a pay increase is an insult Nathan fired Andy, who has been living happily in Mexico drinking tequila and swimming in the pool. Joining him and his $300 000 pay cheque on this little mission are Nicole, Nathan’s daughter, and his best friend Santos. The plan: to dive underwater, tranquilise the sharktopus, bring it to the surface and launch darts into its head that will allow Nicole to interface with its brain again and command it to stop eating everyone.
There are several problems with this search and recovery mission, however. For a start this thing is really fast and can quickly grab a snack in the shallows by throwing its tentacles onto the beach to grab someone. If that doesn’t prove to be effective the sharktopus can also walk on land (water? fish? anyone?) and chase after people that way. Its skin appears to act like a forcefield and repels bullets or anything else you shoot at it and, perhaps the saddest of all, nobody in Mexico takes you seriously when you tell them a half-shark, half-octopus is coming their way to eat them, so civilian casualties are rather high. Add to this the fact that Nicole’s daddy went behind her back and altered the sharktopus’ brain to make it a killer rather than just a hunter (meaning that it kills at random rather than just for food) and you’ve got an enormous list of odds stacked against you. It’s now up to Andy, armed with a machine gun and against ever wearing a shirt, and Nicole, sweet and brilliant, to save the day and take down the sharktopus before more people get eaten and before daddy gets really mad.
THINGS I’VE LEARNED:
- There really are fish in the ocean.
- Sharktopodes speak whale.
- Sharktopodes shoot ink despite having no squid in them.
- Mexican women don’t own clothes, just bikinis.
- A woman’s breasts will not get up and dance.
- The military does not need to get any form of permission from government to fund really weird genetic experiments.
- Chum should be used as a last resort when hunting a giant man-eating sea creature; try diving after it first.
- You should shoot giant man-eating sea creatures after they’ve eaten your friend, not as an attempt to save him.