Horror movies depend on a certain number of stupid decisions.

If the buxom blonde doesn’t descend the basement stairs, light burned out, to investigate what that suspicious-sounding noise was, you don’t have much of a movie. So some of that is a given, an accepted notion.

But in ”Chernobyl Diaries,” directed by Bradley Parker, stupidity is taken to extremes. Oren Peli, who wrote and directed the much-smarter ”Paranormal Activity,” co-wrote the script and is credited with the story, and ought to know better.

Oh, he knows all about scaring the audience with creepy-looking action on the edge of the frame, and there is some of that here. But too many people do too many ridiculous things for this movie to pack nearly the punch of ”Paranormal Activity.”

You’d never wish tragedy upon anyone, but at some point the characters become harder and harder to feel sorry for. Get a clue, people.

Where to begin? Oh, I don’t know, how about with six young people delving into ”extreme tourism,” which sounds like climbing a steep rock or something, but in this case means visiting the abandoned city of Pripyat, where many of the men and women who worked at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and their families lived.

After the 1986 disaster, in which explosions and fire killed 2 and dozens more died or were sickened by radiation poisoning, its residents were evacuated, leaving it a ghost town. So yes, let’s go visit.

That’s what this bunch does, in hiring Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), a former special-forces soldier, to lead them on the tour. Among the group are Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) and his younger brother Chris (Jesse McCartney), along with Chris’ girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Dudley) and her friend Amanda (Devin Kelley). Uri drives them in his creaky van, but is stopped at a checkpoint by soldiers, who say the city is closed for ”maintenance.”

Very unusual, Uri says. But he knows an alternate route, and soon everyone is walking around looking at the abandoned ferris wheel, taking pictures of creepy left-behind baby dolls, poking around in empty apartments.

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Oh, and while they’re in one of those apartments, an angry bear runs down the hall. Because, you know, why not?

At this point, if you’re guessing the van won’t start, take a small toy out of the treasure box. So we have our group stranded in a van in a nuclear wasteland, strange noises start coming from outside, and then the real fun begins.

Something is out there, but no one knows what and … well, what the heck? Let’s investigate, why don’t we?

Things go south from there. It wouldn’t be sporting to reveal who or what is roaming around, but it’s fair to say the bear has competition on the whole circle-of-life circuit.

There are a few scares here, and a sense of dread and foreboding that comes with the territory. But the scares are cheap, stock horror-movie conventional stuff. And none of the characters, with the exception of Sadowski’s Paul, really register, so it’s hard to become invested in their outcome. (Yes, this is true of former teen heartthrob McCartney, as well.)

At one point a character says, ”We have to be smart about this,” and it’s about as funny as anything in a comedy so far this year.

Of course, it’s not meant to be. But watching ”Chernobyl Diaries,” you can’t help but wish the filmmakers had taken her advice.

Source : Review: ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ suffers from total plot meltdown – Green Bay Press Gazette