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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Chernobyl Diaries

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolso Berdal and Jonathan Sadowski star in "Chernobyl Diaries."
Like the real-life practice of extreme tourism from which it takes its premise, the grueling horror exercise "Chernobyl Diaries" (Warner Bros.) is not for everyone.

In fact, gruesome scenes of the wounded and the dead, together with a barrage of foul language from the jittery and the doomed, make this flesh-creeper morally unsuitable for most.

The opening montage introduces us to a quartet of young Americans abroad: adventuresome Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) is living in Kiev, while his more cautious brother, Chris (Jesse McCartney), Chris' girlfriend, Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley), and Natalie's romantically unattached pal Amanda (Devin Kelley) are paying Paul a visit as part of their extensive tour of European hotspots.

Despite Chris' forebodings, Paul convinces his houseguests to join him on an exotic outing to the abandoned city of Pripyat under the direction of local tour guide, and extreme tourism specialist, Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko). Once home to many of the workers at the Chernobyl nuclear complex, Pripyat had to be instantly evacuated in the wake of the 1986 disaster at the neighboring plant, and has remained ostensibly deserted ever since.

At first, all seems to go well. Joined by two of Uri's other clients, backpacking couple Michael (Nathan Phillips) and Zoe (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), Paul and his visitors wander the creepy precincts and get a few startling, yet relatively safe, turns.

But when the time comes to depart, Uri finds that the wiring in his van has been mysteriously sabotaged. This is somewhat unfortunate, as it leaves the dodgy docent, as well as those under his care, stranded amid high radiation levels, predatory wild animals and strange, indistinct noises. Oh, and it's getting dark.

Things go from bad to worse when the embattled ensemble have their first violent brush with an even more sinister source of danger, the nature of which they only gradually come to understand.

In his feature debut, director Brad Parker conjures up the occasional jolt. But unlikely plot elements and largely unsympathetic—and shallow—characters work against audience involvement.

"Chernobyl Diaries" is linked to the "Paranormal Activity" franchise by the presence of Oren Peli, who wrote all three of the films in that series and directed the first of them as well.

Given his participation in this project, for which he penned the script in collaboration with Carey and Shane Van Dyke, its high levels of bloodletting—very much in contrast to the restraint which has consistently characterized the "Paranormal Activity" outings—comes as a disappointing surprise.

Along with the vocabulary issues aforesaid, such messy mayhem marks "Chernobyl Diaries," like the venue in which it unfolds, a no-go area for all but a few.

The film contains intermittent but intense violence with gore, a few uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language, occasional sexual references and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Madeleine Sophie Barat: The legacy of Madeleine Sophie Barat can be found in the more than 100 schools operated by her Society of the Sacred Heart, institutions known for the quality of the education made available to the young. 
<p>Sophie herself received an extensive education, thanks to her brother, Louis, 11 years older and her godfather at Baptism. Himself a seminarian, he decided that his younger sister would likewise learn Latin, Greek, history, physics and mathematics—always without interruption and with a minimum of companionship. By age 15, she had received a thorough exposure to the Bible, the teachings of the Fathers of the Church and theology. Despite the oppressive regime Louis imposed, young Sophie thrived and developed a genuine love of learning. </p><p>Meanwhile, this was the time of the French Revolution and of the suppression of Christian schools. The education of the young, particularly young girls, was in a troubled state. At the same time, Sophie, who had concluded that she was called to the religious life, was persuaded to begin her life as a nun and as a teacher. She founded the Society of the Sacred Heart, which would focus on schools for the poor as well as boarding schools for young women of means; today, co-ed Sacred Heart schools can be found as well as schools exclusively for boys. </p><p>In 1826, her Society of the Sacred Heart received formal papal approval. By then she had served as superior at a number of convents. In 1865, she was stricken with paralysis; she died that year on the feast of the Ascension. </p><p>Madeleine Sophie Barat was canonized in 1925.</p> American Catholic Blog When you go to Jesus, you’re not going to a God who only knows heaven; instead, you’re placing your hurting heart into pierced hands that understand both the pain of suffering and the glory of redemption.

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