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Chernobyl: Mini-Series Review

Accidents happen, history is full of them, but the question is: what happens in the aftermath?

Image courtesy of HBO.

Image courtesy of HBO.

At approximately 1:23 on the morning of April 26th, 1986, reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded. As was highlighted in the new mini-series Chernobyl, one of history’s worst nuclear disasters was not handled well. In fact, the poor handling was compounded by several fatal errors, made worse by the ineptitude of the Soviet government.

In its entirety, Chernobyl only runs for five episodes. But those five episodes give a detailed, harrowing look at the events leading up to and after the initial explosion. The problem is, calling it human error doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The majority of the series follows Valery Legasov, the deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute. While he is initially brought in to advise Soviet politician Boris Shcherbina on how best to clean up the site and prevent further spread of lethal radiation, Legasov eventually becomes the driving force behind the investigation into what really happened that night in Reactor 4.

But Legasov isn’t alone. The morning following the explosion, Ulana Khomyuk, a nuclear physicist, discovers that the dust on her window in Minsk, 400 kilometres away from the reactor, is already intensely radioactive. Deducing that it must have been caused by one of the reactors at the Chernobyl plant, she rushes there to join the clean up efforts, and aids in conducting her own investigations of what happened. Unlike many of the other characters in the series, Khomyuk’s character isn’t based on a real person, but instead comprises the efforts and work ethics of all the Soviet scientists who worked with Legasov and made sure that the errors made at Chernobyl would never be repeated.

Image courtesy of HBO.

Image courtesy of HBO.

The series begins with Legasov hiding tapes outside his home, which contained a complete account of the events leading up to the explosion. These tapes were damning for Anatoly Dyatlov, an engineer in Reactor 4, as they made clear he was a significant party responsible for what happened. After hiding the tapes, Legasov hangs himself, and the viewers are taken back two years and one minute. From their apartment, a good distance away, a firefighter and his wife watch in shock as Reactor 4 explodes.

As someone who has been endlessly fascinated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but understood very little of the mechanics behind it, this series was an excellent watch. I sound a bit cavalier when I phrase it like that, and I do mean it from a standpoint of morbid curiosity, but then isn’t that how most disasters work? After all, the expression “it’s like watching a train wreck” exists for a reason.

That being said, I think Chernobyl did an excellent job making viewers truly understand what happened. This was a truly terrible disaster, and in the end, it was something that could very easily have been avoided were it not for the sake of human arrogance and vicious denial. The series gave significant insight into what happened, including who was ultimately responsible, and how even with overwhelming evidence, the government and the KGB still tried to cover it up. It was a very entertaining series, but it was also informative.

History remembers the name Chernobyl, and even the name Pripyat, as being ghost towns, that to this day are still so radioactive they’re uninhabitable. What fewer people remember—what the series sheds light on—is the role that the government played in what happened, in addition to individual engineers, like Dyatlov.

For anyone who has yet to watch the series and wishes to (and those that don’t, I strongly encourage you to), I’ll refrain from detailing too much of the show, so you can experience it for yourself. That being said, I’d really like to impress upon those of you who’ve yet to see it how worth watching it is.

Image courtesy of HBO.

Image courtesy of HBO.

The level of arrogance from the government, the KGB, and other officials who were supposed to be in charge of civilian safety, that was presented in this show was infuriating, as evidenced by the amount of screaming at the TV myself and another of the Voices did while watching, however, it was true to life. The creators of the series went to great efforts to stick as closely to historical events as possible, and it worked out well.

Upon doing some further research into the series, I learned that it actually gathered much of its own research from a book written by Svetlana Alexievich, who gathered the stories from Pripyat locals that experienced the event directly. This makes many moments throughout the series even more chilling. One that stands out in particular is a scene wherein residents of Pripyat watched the reactor burn from a distance, while radioactive ash fell like snow upon their heads. They were aware it was ash, but horrifically unaware of the radioactivity, and so they danced and played in it, not realizing the clock counting down the end of all their lives had just started ticking

As I said, the truth of the matter is that history is full of accidents, some more or less intentional than others. The important part is what we learn from them, and that we do better going forward. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster, as illustrated in the TV series, was a chaotic mess, and by all means, should have been avoided. It provides a warning for what happens to those who put loyalty based upon arrogance and ignorance above common sense and common good.

Let’s just hope that history doesn’t repeat itself.


There are two previously published posts on Voices in the Attic that relate to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster: Frozen in Time and Open for Visitation and The Black Bird of Chernobyl. Check them out!


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

The Voices Recommend: Short Horror Films

Recently I have been watching some pretty cool short films on youtube, because I, unfortunately, exhausted my supply of feature films. Most of them, on average, are about fifteen minutes long. But the great thing about short films is that they aren’t spread thin like longer feature films, which means greater attention to detail. Short films also offer more creative freedom and they give talented filmmakers the chance to show their work. So let’s dig in!

1.) The IMom

Directed by Ariel Martin, The IMom is a dark science fiction film that tells of a future in which the work of a mother is done instead by a robot, called the IMom. What could possibly go wrong, right? Well, the immediate result is a detached and lazy biological mother,  who is more interested in her phone than she is her own children. Meanwhile, the eldest son, Sam, is not particularly fond of his real mother or the IMom, even though the IMom is the one cooking for him and helping him memorize the Bible as part of his homework.

Fortunately, the IMom has the Gospel of Matthew installed, so she recites the verses for him:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

There’s a power cut, and IMom seems to glitch for a few moments, before recovering and returning to normal. Then she shares a heartwarming moment with Sam. They talk about the sheep and the wolf again. Sam asks her, which one are you? You look like me, so you must be a sheep like me.

But IMom is neither.  Brace yourself for a horrible twisty ending.

2.) The Top of the Stairs: Agatha

This one is a neat little period piece, but it’s not like Downton Abbey or Poldark.  Agatha, directed by Timothy Vandenberg, is more reminiscent of  2012’s The Woman in Black, and I loved every second of it. We begin in an old house, probably around the early 20th century. A little girl stands in the hallway, where she is asked by a stern-sounding lady if she has come alone, as requested. The lady instructs her that her job is to take food up to the attic, place the food on the table, then leave. She must never, ever walk past the table.

So the little girls goes up into the dark attic with a plate of raw chicken. There’s a figure lying on the bed, who makes this horrible wheezing sound—not reassuring, right? But she manages to put the plate down without incident, then she gets paid for doing so. The little girl does this several more times. The second time the figure is nowhere to be seen, the third time it’s sitting by the window. You’ll have to find out what happens next.  I recommend this one for the sheer creepiness factor and the incredible makeup work. It sent shivers up my spine.

3. And They Watched

Inspired by the reinstatement of the electric chair in Tennessee, Toronto-based director Vivian Lin dives into the topic of capital punishment her gruesome yet thought-provoking film, And They Watched.

A prison janitor goes about his job, numb to the dreadful realities of the place where he works. He cleans the windows that separate the electric chair from its audience, paying no mind to the lives that have been lost there. He’s so divorced from reality that he doesn’t even notice the grisly apparitions following him around. However, the deceased prisoners want retribution.

4.) Dédalo

If you are a fan of the Alien franchise, then Dédalo, directed Jerónimo Rocha, is certainly something to watch. It’s a dark and grimy science fiction horror that takes place aboard a space freighter, which has been overrun by alien creatures. Siena, the main character, must survive in the maze of machinery while avoiding the creatures, who are eating her crewmates.

5.) The Exorcism

This one isn’t so much a horror film, but more of a comedic homage to the 1973 classic, The Exorcist. So, if you have a dark sense of humour, this will give you the giggles at the very least. The Exorcism, by Adam Bolt, explores the surprisingly endearing relationship that has developed over the years between the demon Valak and Jacob, the exorcist on call.  Together they recount all the times they’ve met, telling stories to the bewildered and markedly unimpressed sister of the possessed woman. It’s a wild ride, let me tell you, and absolutely worth a watch.


That’s all we have for now! Let us know what you think about these spooky films in the comments, or give us a shout on twitter @atticvoices!


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

See “You” At Home

Be warned, spoilers for Lifetime’s “You” await.


Social media provides a huge opportunity to form meaningful connections and engage in conversation, allowing an entire world to co-exist and interact within seconds. Most people know how easy it is to stumble upon a person’s Instagram profile and quickly scope out their interests and personal life, finding the cracks in the illusion of privacy.

Often, in the world of Tinder and Grindr, you learn a person far better by scouring their Facebook. It seems like harmless investigation, checking up on a previous relationship and exploring the details of their life.

Except, it really isn’t.

Photo courtesy of mrkornflakes via Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of mrkornflakes via Shutterstock

Stalking has been transformed because of the internet. A person’s entire life can be captured across different social media platforms and exposed to search engines, allowing for someone to easily gain access to their information. Privacy settings often don’t protect anyone either, as it doesn’t take much for a person to create a fake profile under a fake name. Internet stalking has become socially acceptable, a common pastime to engage in. More often it's common to have a second social media account to engage others with, using an alias to provide anonymity to the action.    

Stalking is a relatively new concept. While it has existed for decades now, it only became recognized as a criminal offense in the early 1990s, where it suddenly became illegal to lurk in the bushes outside of a house or harass a person against their wishes. The 21st century provides a digital frontier for stalking, turning it into a huge arena for invasion with data stealing and catfishing.

Welcome to your world, exposed.

Crime fiction is known for taking common fears and transforming them into something so incredibly real. Caroline Kepnes, author of You, took the question of what is harmless obsession and revealed the darkness of our constant need to fill our social media with every detail of our lives.

By inventing a relatively charming narrator, You is constantly focused on describing the dangers of loving just a little too much, and turning something sweet into something much darker. Everything is just a matter of escalation. By learning his love interest’s name, the narrator is able to find and dissect his victim online. He is able to locate her address, her place of employment, and much more, thus transitioning from harmless online stalking to invasive breaking and entering, and eventual murder.

Turned into a Lifetime series in 2018, You does not spare the viewer a single moment. Actor Penn Badgley lends his voice to Joe Goldberg and manages to turn a singular encounter into deadly devotion. Everything is a simple calculation, by learning Beck’s routine, installing himself into her life through run-ins, and demolishing any person who might stand in the way of his obsession.

Most romantic comedies play up the harmlessness of stalking, turning it into a punchline and a quirky characteristic. It creates harmless tension that is swiftly diffused, and does an extreme disservice to the audience. There’s Something About Mary is just one classic example that features the subject as an element to true love, despite the fact that a male lead is using a private investigator to track down a woman from high school. With a tidy ending, the audience is meant to leave under the assumption that stalking can be seen as a grand gesture. Passionate love cannot simply conform to basic privacy.

Friends uses it as a punchline in the episode “The One With the Jam”, letting it wrap the episode up with a few jokes about the situation. Nothing is said about the victim’s anxiety, or how disturbing it was for a stranger to invade her life so thoroughly that she had to change her entire routine. Instead, it is merely an inconvenience set to the tune of a laugh track. One of the more modern uses of stalking as a theme in in literature-turned-movie is Fifty Shades of Grey. The entire series aims to make stalking less of an issue, but more of a symbol of romantic endeavours and protection. Stalking is becoming less of an issue in books and movies, and instead greatly misrepresenting actual victims.

You does not sugarcoat the issue. By throwing the viewer in a front row seat in Joe’s mind, the intentions are not concealed and there is nothing simple about the situation. The victim is nothing more than a victim, stalked and cornered. Lacking any real humour, the show is equipped with a soundtrack to convey some scenes as traditionally romantic scenes. However, it is also matched with the increasingly anxious and obsessive monologue of the narrator. There are no happy endings in the world created by Kepnes.

What is the grand gesture in You? Is it the scene where he murders her casual lover? Or is it the moment where he justifies murdering her best friend, as she was also engaged in similar dangerous stalking behaviours that also targeted Beck? Perhaps it is where he invades the realm of mental health, engaging in counselling sessions with her therapist secretly, to pry out more details of her life.

Many myths surround the topic of stalking and alter our perception of the issue. However, the reality is that 3 in 4 stalking victims are targeted by someone they know. This has a massive impact on the mental health of their victims. Women are far more victimized by the men in their lives than by strangers.

Photo courtesy of AlexCorv via Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of AlexCorv via Shutterstock

Instead of conveying the traditional ‘boys will be boys’ tagline that frequently accompanies literature and media that uses stalking as a punchline, Kepnes creates an unforgettable narrator who is slowly becoming more and more obsessive, drawing his victim into a literal cage to keep her trapped.

Did Kepnes design a handy guide for potential stalkers with her work? Arguably, no. The common methods of stalking are radically normalized in the 21st century, through applications designed for monitoring conversations and constant scouring of social media updates. We’ve become guilty of stalking and obsession far more than even we are aware of. Instead, Kepnes has delivered the dangers and consequences of fanatical love and ‘grand gestures’, revealing the hazards of our digital lives.


Have you ever been catfished? Has your boyfriend’s weird ex-girlfriend ever stalked your instagram? You can tell me all the gory details at @rahel_taller (just, like, don’t actually stalk me and murder my best friend, please?)


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.