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The Curator of Schlock #15 by Jeffrey Shuster

Chernobyl Diaries: Free Beef Jerky Included With Tour!

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I’m a sucker for cheap DVDs. Amazon was having a blowout sale the other week of $5 dollar DVDs. I purchased Falling Down, Up In Smoke, and Flashdance. And then I bought a $4 dollar DVD, Chernobyl Diaries. I remember seeing the trailer at the movies a couple of summers ago. It looked like one of those found footage horror movies that are all the rage now. A bunch of young American tourists decide to take a trip to Chernobyl and all sorts of craziness ensues. And by craziness, I mean that they all die a horrible death.

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Not that I really mind that they all die a horrible death. They’re all these fresh-faced trust fund types. You know, for once I wish Hollywood would make a horror movie featuring some young people who can’t afford to take three month all expenses paid trips to Europe. Who are these young people? Their names escape me, but who needs character names. I’ll call them like I see them. There’s Baby-face, Stubble-face (Baby-face’s older brother), Blondie (Baby-face’s girlfriend), and Brunette (a friend of either Blondie or Baby-face).

Stubble-face is more daring and reckless than Baby-face and he manages to convince Blondie and Brunette to take a trip over to Pripyat,, the city that was at the front and center of that whole Chernobyl nuclear disaster a few years ago. They meet up with Uri, a local extreme tour guide who convinces Baby-face that Pripyat is perfectly safe. Uri insists that radiation levels are low enough that they won’t affect their health. I trust Uri. He cracks jokes about beef jerky. A bearded Australian and his Norwegian girlfriend also tag along with them.

The Ukrainian military doesn’t want to let anyone inside the city (imagine that!), but Uri knows a secret path into Pripyat. They see the sights: the abandoned buildings, the abandoned parks, the mutant fish flopping around near the shore. After a black bear chases them out of an abandoned building, Uri decides they should call it a day. Uri starts up his tour van to get them out of the city, but surprise, surprise, it won’t start! It looks like someone messed with the wires in Uri’s van. But how is that possible? Pripyat is an abandoned or is it? Yeah, it’s not abandoned.

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They hear some noises and Uri and Baby-face leave the van to investigate the happenings. Gunshots go off, Baby-face makes his way back to van with a chunk missing from one of legs, and Uri has gone missing. Wild dogs start attacking the van. Yeah, they’re all going to die. Really, at this point the movie is over. They’re all just delaying the inevitable. At some point, Chernobyl mutants kidnap Baby-face and Stubbly-face insists that they go find his brother. Ummm…no. You should hightail it of town and get away from the wild dogs, mutant fish, and mutant people. Plus, there’s that whole radiation thing to worry about. I hear that can kill you.

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Chernobyl Diaries kind of came and went in the theaters. It’s shot in that free roaming HD camera style that seems to be all the rage these days. Usually found footage movies designate one of the characters in the role of camera operator, but not this time around. They don’t even bother with the pretense. Sigh. The sad thing is that the Chernobyl disaster would make an incredible subject for a documentary or a dramatic film. Of course, that might force Hollywood to portray Eastern Europeans as human beings. Why do that when you can portray them as killer mutants?


Ten Things I Learned From Chernobyl Diaries

  1. Don’t go to Chernobyl.
  2. Young people are reckless.
  3. If you see a creepy little girl with her back turned to you, don’t call out to her.
  4. Packs of wild dogs don’t mess around.
  5. Mutant fish like to bite people.
  6. Don’t go to Chernobyl.
  7. If the Geiger counter readings start to rise the further you walk, walk in the opposite direction.
  8. If you find Uri’s walkie-talkie abandoned by an underground bunker, don’t go looking inside for him.
  9. Don’t go to Chernobyl.
  10. Four bucks can be too much money for a DVD.

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Jeffrey Shuster

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.

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