REVIEW: Chernobyl Diaries
Producer Oren Peli commanded our attention with the interesting Paranormal Activity, but has since proven to be a lot less interesting to watch. His subsequent works have lacked flaw or much suspense or originality. His latest disappointment is the post-apocalyptic Chernobyl Diaries, which is a horror film using the Russian nuclear disaster as the catalyst. The film, out on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, lets down the viewer by not being good, scary, or by having anything to say about nuclear reactors at a time when the topic is bubbling up once again as we scramble for alternative energy sources.
The basics of the story show a group of friends take an “Extreme Tour” of Prypiat, the town next door to the fabled power plant which exploded in 1986 and currently sits buried under concrete. When they somehow get stranded from the tour, you know nothing good will come of this decision. Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), the tour guide, is the one to make the inane decision to spend the night rather than hike through the night the twelve miles to get help or find appropriate shelter. In a thankfully brief eighty-six minutes, we watch several get killed and a few lucky ones survive. Ho hum.
Peli knows how to scare us, having made his name with Paranormal Activity but he and Bradley Parker reuse all the same techniques in a new setting, recycling without any benefit to the audience. At least visually they make things look and feel bleak with Hungary and Serbia standing in for poor Prypiat.
This film was shot on the cheap, reportedly $1 million, which may explain the lack of adequate script or solid cast to convince us something bad is really going on. The quartet of kids is led by singer Jesse McCartney and Norwegian actress Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, neither of whom are bad enough to deserve Razzies, just bland. They run, they hide, they get hunted by who-knows-what, which miraculously transforms into I-don’t-care long before the fifty minute mark.
Before he is allowed to shot another movie, Peli needs to convince us he has something to say or something to show us. Right now, we’ve seen it all and have little need to come back for more.
The movie looks and sounds fine on the transfer. The Combo Pack offers us the Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet along with a few extras including Uri’s Extreme Tours Infomercial (1:19); Chernobyl Conspiracy Viral Video (2:25); a single deleted scene and an alternate ending that doesn’t help.