Okay so my expectations weren’t exactly high for this film, however I am huge horror fan and was willing to forgive the fact that the maker of Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli) was attached. I was mainly happy that it wasn’t a remake and not shot using the now overused and tiresome“found footage” gimmick.
So is it any good, well unfortunately not really. The story takes a group of stereotypical and largely unlikeable disposable American twenty-something’s and puts them in the situation of taking an extreme tourism trip to the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. But it’s a horror film and a deserted town with a high a high Geiger counter reading makes for a good setting ripe for scares. Just don’t mention The Hills Have Eyes!
The problems start when night falls and the group get stuck there, the most interesting character is killed off first which leaves us with the group of characters we have all seen too many times before. When will horror film writers understand that if the audience doesn’t like a character they don’t care if he/she is killed. Also a character plans to propose to his girlfriend whilst on holiday (set up in the first five minutes, so not a spoiler) and guess what happens to him… if the lessons of Scream have been forgotten then fine but Cabin in the Woods (of which I am a huge fan) was out only a few months ago so there is no real excuse for this lazy generic writing that makes people all too aware they are watching a film.
The atmosphere around the excursion is initially good, with tension being built well around the journey and kudos for a creepy scene involving a Russian soldier but it fails to maintain this into the second half of the film. The jump scares go from being effective to far too predictable and if I’m brutally honest the film gets more than a little a dull with far too many shots of people running around in the dark and emitting amateur sounding screams.
However the filmmakers should be applauded for the less is more approach with the antagonistic presence. Right up until the end the audience is only awarded fleeting glimpses of the creatures, this makes a refreshing change from the over use of CG beasties that has infected a number of modern day horror films (Jeepers Creepers anyone?). The creatures themselves aren’t particularly scary but this effort to humanise the threat harks back to American horror of the 1970s so I shouldn’t really complain on that point.
Overall it’s an average horror film, that doesn’t deliver on the promise of its high concept. Even if I went in expecting it to be below par I did at least expect to be entertained and for the most part I wasn’t, catch it on Netflix or Lovefilm but it’s not worth a trip to the cinema.