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A real-life disaster gets the Hollywood horror treatment By Richard Crouse In Focus May 23, 2012 Metro Canada

chernobyl-diariesHiroshima. Three Mile Island. Some names stand for more than geography.

Most recently the name Chernobyl has become the definition of disaster.  A meltdown at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986 caused the ancient city to be evacuated and made the name a nuclear-age cuss word.

Pop culture looked to the disaster for inspiration. David Bowie and Kraftwerk wrote songs about the devastation. Satirists made jokes like, “Last night the Chernobyl nuclear power station fulfilled the five-year plan of heat energy generation in four microseconds.”

Nuclear energy worker Homer threw a brick at “No more Chernobyls,” chanting protestors on The Simpsons. The X-Files character Fluke-Man was mutated by Chernobyl’s radioactive waste and half a dozen documentaries (including the Oscar winning Chernobyl Heart) have detailed the fallout from the world’s biggest nuclear accident.

This weekend Chernobyl Diaries, based on a story by Paranormal Activity’s director Oren Peli, puts a horror spin on the tragedy by placing six people on an “extreme tour” of the Chernobyl area.

Chernobyl Diaries uses the area as a setting, but the filmmakers behind the short film Gamma (available online) went one better and actually shot the five-minute movie on location.

The story of “Nuke-Root” technology, an organic process to rehabilitate nuclear ravaged towns, was filmed near the nuclear wasteland in Baikonur, Kazakhstan and abandoned communities of Pripyat, Ukraine.

Chernobyl was also the location for Universal Solider: Regeneration, but the movie was shot in Bulgaria. Series baddie Dolphe Lundgren takes on the “perfect soldier” Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD) in his bid to stop a terrorist who plans to unleash a toxic cloud containing 100 times the radiation of a bomb from the Chernobyl plant.

This one is for JCVD hard-core fans only. One reviewer said if you come across it on television, “keep changing channels. There’s bound to be something better on.”

Michael Bay got better notices for his Chernobyl film. In Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon, the director set one of the movie’s big action scenes — a showdown between emotionless Decepticon Shockwave and Transformer good guy Optimus Prime — at the site of the infamous reactor.

Of course sometimes the Chernobyl tragedy has been played for laughs.

In Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, the Chernobyl native Svetlana has a mutated penis for a nose and in Hot Tub Time Machine the guys drink a Russian energy drink called Chernobyl, which contains “ingredients which are illegal in the United States.”

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