Chernobyl on HBO

Did anyone watch this last night? I didn’t know if I would be into it, but I thought I would check out a few minutes to see, and I found it absolutely riveting and went right through the whole episode.

The very beginning is a kind of framing device from a year later, but it’s not long before reluctant technicians and engineers are being sent by disbelieving bureaucrats into the heart of the exploded reactor, coming back blistered and vomiting, and are STILL disbelieved. :eek: I am not much into conventional horror movies, but this is my kind of horror.

I was similarly enthralled. I’m pretty interested in Chernobyl, so was already looking forward to seeing this.

Showrunner Craig Mazin says they were meticulous about accuracy in set and costume design, and it shows. I spent a couple weeks in the Ukraine in 1990, so I can attest to that, at least outside the reactor—but he insists every panel, every rivet, is exactly how it looked that night, and I believe it.

I’m so glad they didn’t try to use Russian accents. I walked out of that Jennifer Lawrence movie last year because I cannot stand that. American accents also would have been weird, so going British was the perfect compromise.

I am absolutely hooked on this show and cannot wait for the next episode. If they are historically accurate as well, then the world was damn close to a disaster of the like never seen before.

Oh, whatever else they may have done, they unequivocally succeeded in precipitating a disaster of the like never seen before, except perhaps after nuclear weapons tests. IAEA Level 7! Not to be matched until Fukushima.

  • re. Fukushima, a couple of people on this very board were arguing that no way, the cores couldn’t melt down. And, ok, even if it did melt a little bit, nothing would explode. Next thing you know, people are considering evacuating Tokyo.

Right, but what Railer is referring to is the near-miss of a massive cataclysm that would have killed millions and rendered all of Eastern Europe uninhabitable. That was not something I realized was a possibility, much less a near-inevitability if they had not prevented it at the last moment.

This is exactly what I was referring to. Yes, the Chernobyl explosion certainly was something the world hadn’t seen before or since, but we were frighteningly close to a disaster of epic and unbelievable proportion.

Watched it, and I really like it.

I started watching the first episode, which was a little slow for the first “future” scene but then got really good for the next 15 minutes and then the episode ended, which was weird because the DVR said I had been watching for 60 minutes but there’s simply no way that much time elapsed. 20 minutes, tops.

This was the most horrifying and shocking thing I’ve seen to date, including that time I watched both versions of Martyrs, back to back, starting with the original.

Apparently the other three reactors at the Chernobyl plant were still operational up until the year 2000. So presumably people were still working there for decades after the accident. How did these people avoid the contamination? Was the surrounding area truly cleaned up to the point where it was a safe work environment?

I have to assume then that you haven’t seen Threads.

I wondered the same.

Right? I keep recommending it to people and telling them that it starts slow but gets intense about ten minutes in and then you will feel like you can’t breathe until the episode finishes.

Wikipedia says that Reactor 2 was taken offline after being damaged in a 1991 fire, Reactor 1 was decommissioned in 1996, and Reactor 4 finally was shut down in 2000.

Regarding workers at the plant, I’m not sure if it was that it had been cleaned up enough, so much as that it was deemed that workers could be in the area for limited periods of time without suffering excessive exposure.

According to the Wikipedia entry on the “exclusion zone”:

No, but I was one of the 100 million Americans who watched The Day After back in 1983. (I never even heard of Threads until your post.)

Looking at the trailer for Threads on IMDb, it looks like a very good movie but I can see even in the trailer that the cheesy mid-80s effects (same with Day After) couldn’t possibly carry the same visceral horror this first episode of Chernobyl did for me.

It was the faces melting that gives me nightmares. Not cheesy Raiders of the Lost Ark face melting; I mean real actual living humans in the real world whose faces melted probably pretty close to what we saw, but it wasn’t make believe. It is true horror.

Missed the edit window: Movies like Saw and Hostel are comedies* to me. Movies like Martyrs; Irreversible; Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer are disturbing horror movies**. The first episode of Chernobyl was a whole 'nother level***.

*Love them, and anything like them with half-decent production values.
**Love these too, but here the lower the production value the more I like it.
***Love this too, but good lord it’s the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen. “Go put the rods in the reactor” (or whatever) is up there for worst sentences ever.

Go up top and look down to the reactor.
No, I don’t think I’ll do that.
Yes, you will…

Oh my god I can’t with this. Gah! As a child of the 70s and 80s, nuclear panic is deeply entrenched in my psyche, with radiation burns being possibly the worst way imaginable to die.

You might be surprised by Threads. The 1980s special effects aren’t really a big component of the whole thing - it’s a lot darker than that. If you fancy another dose of nuclear-bleak, then the 1960s BBC production The War Game is worth a watch, and it only had an SFX budget of about three pounds. There’s usually a copy on Youtube.

Oh god, yes. They insist in a friendly way, but then have a guard escort him (and of course they are too chicken to do it themselves). The guard waits sheltered around the corner, the very reluctant engineer trudges over…and looks back with a face that is burned after just a couple seconds. Oh man.

A close competitor for horror was when the firefighter picks up the piece of graphite with a gloved hand, wonders aloud what it is, the other guy tells him to drop it, and he does but shakes his hand like “huh, that feels kinda weird now”. A few minutes later, he’s on the ground writhing in agony from a badly burned, blistering hand. :eek:

So…this is only on HBO right now? Darn.

I don’t find it shocking or terrifying at all. If anything, I think they avoid making things too dramatic, even though they easily could. They don’t spend much time on the victims, and don’t show individual dramas (apart from the fireman and his wife, but it’s brief). I rather find the narration cold and detached.

But I find the episodes very interesting. I’m just wondering, as I always do when I watch something supposed to be historical, how faithful to reality they are. For instance in their depiction of the workings of the Soviet bureaucracy.
And by the way Threads is in my opinion vastly superior to The day after, and also much bleaker and more pessimistic.

Reactor 4 was the one that went prompt supercritical in 1986.

As for worse scenarios, the accident caused a stupid amount of radioactive contamination to the environment (which was not exactly easy to clean up and contain, as well as that could even possibly be done), but let’s say I am not personally familiar, and luckily neither is the entire world, with up-to-date models of the effects of 10x or 100x that amount released into the atmosphere, ground, and water (brings up memories of certain spreadsheets in that happy bedtime story, On Thermonuclear War).

Don’t worry; at least 9 or 10 RBMK nuclear reactors are fully operational this very day!