A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chernobyl Diaries is a horror movie about young people who decide to tour the abandoned towns near the infamous nuclear power plant. Some of the violence, including attacks by wolves and radioactive mutants, is more suggested than shown, but the movie still has plenty of blood, gore, and dead bodies. A gun is also fired many times. Language is strong, with frequent uses of "f--k" and "s--t" throughout. There's some sexual innuendo and kissing in the beginning, as well as some drinking (and hangovers). Chernobyl Diaries comes from the creator of Paranormal Activity, but it isn't anywhere near as creative as that film or its sequels.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Chris (Jesse McCartney); his girlfriend, Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley); and their friend Amanda (Devin Kelley) travel to Kiev to visit Chris' brother, Paul (Jonathan Sadowski). After a night of partying, Paul proposes they take an "extreme tour" and visit Pripyat, the city where the workers and families of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant once lived before the infamous 1986 meltdown. After the tour, the group discovers that the van won't start, and they're forced to spend the night in the spooky old place. Hungry wolves are about, and there's something even worse lurking in the shadows, not to mention the threat of radiation poisoning. Can the friends make it out alive?
Is it any good?
Oren Peli, the creator of Paranormal Activity, co-wrote and co-produced this high-concept horror movie, but he forgot to write reasonable characters or situations after the concept. CHERNOBYL DIARIES is basically a generic "cabin in the woods" movie, in which the characters are not-very-bright young people who constantly make the wrong decisions. The dunderheaded plot doesn't particularly help, as when -- for some reason -- night falls after only a few hours, or things jump out practically on cue.
Making his directorial debut, Bradley Parker chooses a hand-held camera look, as if an invisible friend were filming nearby. This allows for some money-saving long shots, but the camera also ends up shaking and lurching, causing more upset stomachs than the subject matter. Nearly every scary moment is either right out of the horror textbook, or else it subverts logic for an easy shortcut. Finally, there's the bad-taste factor of using the actual site of a real-life disaster for an exploitation movie. Avoid this one.
Talk to your kids about ...
What do you think about the choice to set a horror movie in a place where a real-life disaster took so many lives?
Do the characters make reasonable decisions throughout the story? What are some choices they could have made differently?
- In theaters: May 25, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: October 16, 2012
- Cast: Devin Kelley, Jonathan Sadowski, Olivia Dudley
- Director: Bradley Parker
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, some bloody images and pervasive language
- Last updated: March 10, 2020
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love scares
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch