"Chernobyl Diaries" arrives in theaters this weekend on nearly 2,500 screens, but you'd be forgiven for not realizing it exists. After all, with "Men In Black 3" and Will Smith sucking up all the Internet bandwidth, who has time for some cheapie horror movie about a bunch of young adults who visit Prypiat, the Ukrainian city that was abandoned following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986?
Critics haven't been kind to "Chernobyl Diaries," which comes from the mind of "Paranormal Activity" producer Oren Peli. The film has a mere 42 precent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and that number could drop lower as more reviews file. ("Chernobyl Diaries" doesn't appear to have been screened widely for critics; neither the New York Times nor Los Angeles Times currently have reviews printed.)
"'Chernobyl' is about as lazy, routine and hilariously absurd as horror movies get," wrote Geoff Berkshire in his D+ review for HitFix. "It also has the added baggage of appearing exploitative of a real life tragedy (while also uncomfortably recalling Japan's nuclear disaster just last year, which made worldwide headlines six months before this film went into production)."
About that exploitation: "It is terrible that such a tragic event as Chernobyl is being sensationalized in a Hollywood horror film," a representative for Friends Of Chernobyl Centers U.S. told TMZ this week. "Thousands of people have died and over 400,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Today over 5 million people still live on contaminated land. The horror is not mutants running around, the real horror is the effect that Chernobyl continues to have on the lives of millions who have been devastated physically, emotionally and economically."
Still if there is a silver lining to be drawn from "Chernobyl Diaries," it could be that the film makes more people interested in researching the disaster, which its trailer presents as something people might not even remember.
"'Chernobyl Diaries' did inspire me to come home and read more about the Chernobyl disaster and the city of Prypiat on Wikipedia," wrote Jordan Hoffman for ScreenCrush, "so that I consider time well spent."
At least now you know what you're in for if that screening of "Men In Black 3" you wanted to see is sold out.