Some of the best recent horror films have come from that interesting genre where American teens go on holiday and have terrible things happen to them. They mostly go to remote rural parts of America (Cabin Fever, Cabin In The Woods), but sometimes to Europe (Hostel). Then something dreadful attacks them, they run around in circles screaming and bickering, and then all (or most) of them die.
It’s interesting to reflect upon the fear of adulthood, combined with fear of the Old World, that this genre of films expresses. The holiday that takes place in these films is often the holiday after graduation from high school or university, in that liminal period before adult responsibilities take hold. It’s also interesting to think about the genre’s roots in the Gothic tradition, which was born in the lurking ancestral creepiness of Old Europe, and then was reinvented in America, in the unknowable spaces of its wild rural landscape. Certainly more interesting to reflect upon this than watch Chernobyl Diaries.
Chernobyl Diaries (American Youths Go On A Tour Of Chernobyl And Come To A Sticky End) is not particularly exciting viewing. It unfolds exactly as you’d expect, in a series of yawn-worthy tropes. There are some well-executed, and genuinely scary moments of suspense, which are overwhelmed by a sense of predictable inevitability, as the dislikeable characters are picked off one by one, culminating in a lazy “twist” ending.
It’s disappointingly not shot on location in Pripyat (which would have been cool, if impractical), although the set builds and locations are nice – but the affected documentary style (presumably the legacy of Oren Peli, who was also responsible for the much better Paranormal Activity) does not lend itself to the broad scope of an eerie deserted landscape.
I would suggest that you rent Cabin Fever on DVD if you want to see how this is done properly. And women, always wear a sports bra and shoes you can run in.
- Julia Hilliard