So, Someone Thought It Was A Good Idea to Make A Movie About Chernobyl

I love a good scary movie as much as the next person, but the newest bloody, gushy, bone-crackin’ zombie horror opening this weekend is one that I personally feel crosses the line on what we can indulge our fears in – because it’s based on a real modern disaster.

I know that a lot of readers on this site were either too young or not even thought of yet, but the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 was one of the worst catastrophes in modern history. It has killed thousands of people, caused over 300,000 citizens to relocate as the land was left uninhabitable and ultimately crippled the Soviet economy. Just to give you an idea, the accident released 400 times more radiation into the atmosphere than the bombing at Hiroshima and will take 20,000 years to be perfectly safe for human habitation again.

Now, shortly after the 26th year anniversary of the devastation, Hollywood decides that all of this is the perfect setting for our latest summer thriller!

Alright, guys, here’s the pitch!  This movie’s got everything! Hot young people! Blood! Blood ON the hot young people! Zombies! Inaccurate science! We start off with six tourists – American, of course, because aren’t Americans just the coolest?! They decide to go to Chernobyl in what’s become a rising trend amongst young people with money to burn called “extreme tourism.” Extreme! Find some way to do product placement of every energy drink ever – we really gotta heighten the extreme factor, here! So, they hire a tour guide named, eh, what’s a common Russian name? Uri! Of course! Uri takes them to the city of Pripyat, where most of the workers lived during the nuclear disaster. He warns them of the dangers, but they came here for danger! America! Then they find themselves stranded in the ghost city and discover that they’re not alone. The radiation has created a bunch of flesh-hungry Ukrainian zombies and, turns out, they love the taste of Americans! Especially Jesse McCartney! Alright, can you have the final draft to me by 4 o’clock? I wouldn’t over-think it.

Let’s clear some things up here. We listen to music, read books, comics, magazines and watch television and movies because we enjoy both relating to them and using them for escapism. Entertainment is meant to ignite an emotion and take us out of our reality. This film is not escapism. This is based off of the reality that hundreds of thousands of people lived with, died from and are still affected by. But hey, it didn’t affect us as a nation, nor did we cause it, so no hard feelings, right? In fact, the only ways that most of us relate to this are by recollections of the news coverage. We don’t have any connection to the Chernobyl disaster, we can’t relate to the devastation itself, so it’s easier for us as the outsiders to separate ourselves from the situation. You don’t see a nuclear zombie flick based directly on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because that was a huge no-no on America’s behalf and we still feel super bad about that. Just because we had no involvement in what happened at Chernobyl, does that justify making a mockery of it?

And it is a mockery. I have nothing against horror movies based off of true stories. I’m really into ghosts and hauntings, and real accounts of paranormal activity have obviously inspired so many films, but have we really run out of scary movie premises and remakes that we have to start going after monumental real life catastrophes for inspiration? The Hills Have Eyes remake cites Chernobyl and Hiroshima as influences to the story, but it at least takes a general approach. The Chernobyl Diaries is upfront in its name and promotional ads that, hey, this movie’s about a really sad thing that actually happened and that’s sad and all, but wouldn’t it be crazy if that really sad thing called radiation exposure left people all gross and angry and dopey so they don’t know any better than to kill?

Besides the setting itself, what I find even more insensitive is how Hollywood so blatantly makes light of the radiation that has caused cancer and genetic mutations in people, animals and plant-life, and turns victims into blood-thirsty oafs. Imagine Europe making a movie about the ghosts of people killed on 9/11 haunting the new World Trade Center built in its place. Horrible, right? Insensitive, offensive and with no respect towards the victims who were impacted by the tragedy? Well, that’s exactly how I view Chernobyl Diaries.

This film does not appear to be an homage to the tragedy, but a historical fiction written negatively. It’s different than movies like Titanic or Schindler’s List – although they do portray fictionalized characters in horrible historical settings, and some can argue as making money off of someone else’s personal losses – because it manipulates the truth in a far more extreme way.

I know horror movies are always an extreme bending of the truth – that’s why we love them. It visualizes our worst fears and we soak it up because the rush is great. Don’t get me wrong, I love zombie movies. My only argument is here is that we can keep it in a more fictionalized scenario instead of a real life one that actually affected a whole country and hundreds of thousands of people. We’re capable of better creativity.


Image via The Examiner

  • Meredith Lee

    I completely agree with you! I’m not really a fan of the blood and gore horror movie so this would not have been something I would have wanted to see anyway but when I read about it, it just seemed really inappropriate. They’re exploiting a real tragedy it seems. You’re completely right–most horror movies are influenced by a tragic event. There were real life murders in the Amityville Horror home, but that’s not what that movie is about. This just seems like it’s taking it way too far and basically mocking tragedy. Great article!

  • Annie Whatsername

    I am not into horror movies, but I totally agree with you on this one. I think Hollywood is quite insensitive and even mockery to turn this HUGE disaster into a stupid horror movie. Not to add that the effects of this radiation still continues to affect the people even in the nearest countries…

  • Sophie Iannuzzi


  • Colleen Sweeney

    I was three when Chernobyl happened. And I don’t know what Hollywood or the creators of ‘Paranormal Activity’ were thinking, but the premise of this is horrible.

  • Elizabeth Fallon

    Don’t think it’s that terrible an outcome of Chernobyl that it “crippled the Soviet economy”

  • Jocelyn Dugan

    I don’t know…I LIKE scary movies based on a true story.

    Don’t get me wrong, Chernobyl was crazy terrible and it’s not cool to make light of a tragedy. However, the whole point of a scary movie is to scare the pants off of you and to make the viewer think, “Holy crap. This is real, I know it. I’m never sleeping alone again.” Or in this case, I’m never visiting Western Europe.

    It was a dumb movie. The end was stupid, the science was bad. The people were bad actors and much too attractive. It was supposed to make young, 20-something Americans (the target demographic) jump and scream and place themselves in the character’s shoes because this was them! Young and with the urge to see the world! And fall in love! And sleep with people!

    I like stuff like that. But I do think it was vaguely inappropriate. I would like to point out, however, that a couple 9/11 movies have been produced by Hollywood (and WW2, and Pearl Harbor and Vietnam and Titanic) and they made it out to be cool or glamorous or beautiful or even really horrible (which lends its own glamour) and no one really thought twice. History repeats itself if you don’t remember…

  • Tamara Terefenko

    My family is originally from Ukraine and this movie disgusts me. I had family that died and family members now that suffer severe forms of cancer due to the radiation exposure. The fact that the enough people thought that this was a “good” idea that it was created into a film only perpetuates the stereotype that Americans are self-interested and ignorant. For shame.

  • Kathleen Rhea Galeos

    I’ve only recently gotten into the craze of zombies and the likes of that, so when I saw the trailer for this movie I got mixed emotions. Obviously the catastrophe that is Chernobyl was devastating, but to have it’s history fictionalized into a film for excitement is insensitive indeed. I’ll be honest, I did want to watch this movie but was hesitant because of the history. But now, after reading this article, I will definitely be NOT watching the inaccuracy that is this movie. Thank You.

  • Stefani Kester

    I agree! It is so inappropriate. Your comment on 9/11 was spot on, I guess people don’t understand how real Chernobyl is.

  • Olena Oleschuk Lenczuk

    FINALLY someone who sees it like it is!!! Thank you thank you thank you for speaking the truth! Hollywood writers need to hear that it is NOT ok to write horror movies based on tragedies and be so insensitive to people. Have writers and producers become so lame that they cant think up original material???

  • Katherine Tackett

    LOVE this article. I’ve been saying the same thing since I saw the advertisements for this. I am Russian Orthodox and every summer when I was a kid, two boys from Chernobyl would come to stay with a family from my church due to radiation being worse in the summer. My stepdad told me about the disaster and I think this movie is disgusting. If they wanted to do a type of documentary, as I’m sure there are many already, ok then. Tell the story. Don’t turn the disaster into some dumb movie cliche! Zombies are everywhere, we really don’t need another movie about them along with the movie glamorizing a horrible, horrible, event in history.

  • Alanine Rhenylalanine

    Way to go Hollywood. Along with whitewashing and glamorizing war and genocide, you have earned yourself yet another notch in the insensitivity belt. Shameful.

  • Natalie Forrest

    Yet another way for other nationalities to look at America negatively. Some see us as ignorant and selfish, now we can add insensitive to that. As a great-grandchild of Ukranian immigrants, I take great offense to this movie. What’s next, a comedy about the holocaust? Hollywood needs to learn to do actual research and think of how their actions might affect others before jumping on a project!

  • Iris Casarez

    Correction unless I read it wrong but schindlers list isn’t fictionalized there was a man by the name oskar schindler who gained at the jewish peoples misfortune but ultimately spent all his wealth in buying them out of the camps and giving them a chance at life in his factory keeping them safe until they were liberated, or maybe you meant the jewish people portayed and even they weren’t fictional the survivors gave their testimony which was then put into the movie…..just fyi…as far as this movie goes I dont see the offense they’ve made plenty of movies of other american tragedies and ww2,like you stated even titatic and pearl harbor…sure people have a right to be touchy but nowadays nothing is off limits to producers they’ve runt out of ideas and are just doing thid for money I say if you have an issue just don’t watch it n put ur money in their pckets….

  • Farmer Waltz

    Horror movies are often inspired by real events, whether it’s obvious or implied. ‘The Hill Have Eyes’ was based on actual nuclear bomb tests that were done in New Mexico around the 1950s. ‘Godzilla’ was inspired by Hiroshima and Nagasaki. ‘Psycho’ was based on murders committed by the serial killer Ed Gein. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ mirrored the ugliness of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ is no different, and if anything it at least makes a new generation aware of a terrible event that they might not otherwise never learn about. And it doesn’t glorify it – as I recall, the characters who made the area their playground were punished for their insensitivity (spoiler alert, they were all killed off). So before you go off on how fake offended you are by something that had nothing to do with you and happened almost 30 years ago, maybe you should do a little research first and think about what the film means.

  • Cailey Lynn Turbin

    Aren’t you such a hipster, being offended by a mainstream horror film? I’m sure the director’s and writer’s intention wasn’t to make a “mockery” of Chernobyl. It’s a sad, tragic story that could have made a really cool film. If anything this is heightening people’s awareness of Chernobyl. It’s a stupid scary movie that’s going to be all but forgotten about in six months. Get over it.

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