What do you get when you pair the director of “Paranormal Activity” with a handful of unknown actors, a one-hit wonder soap-star-turned-singer, and a plot based upon the Chernobyl meltdown? You guessed it: a sub-par suspense film with a poorly executed ending.
Meet Chris, Amanda, and Natalie – a trio of pretty Americans touring Europe and en route to Russia to meet Chris’ older brother, Paul, in Minsk. Unbeknownst to Amanda, Chris confides in his older brother his plan to propose to her upon their arrival in Moscow, their next destination. However, Paul decides to intervene and proposes a new plan: an extreme tourism excursion in the abandoned city of Pripyat, just outside of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Despite Chris’ pleas, the group decides to take up Paul’s offer and embark the next day to Chernobyl/Pripyat under the guide of Uri, an ex-Soviet Special Forces agent.
Piling into an assault-van of sorts and accompanied by a pair of last minute travelers – an Aussie named Mike and his blonde Norse girlfriend, Zoe – they set off on the 2-hour drive to Pripyat. However, it is upon arrival at their destination that they find the area restricted to tourists by the Soviet guard. Undaunted, Uri drives the van to another remote access point, stealing them into the abandoned city of Pripyat for their excursion. It is there, as one can imagine, that some unknown element intercedes and prevents them from leaving the city. Somehow wires to the van’s starter are cut and they are forced to stay overnight. It’s at this point, as you can imagine, the horror movie element sets in and the typical suspense-film-plot takes over.
Of course, people leave the van to investigate “strange noises” and, of course, they are picked off one by one. As the movie progresses and the horror-film starts to settle in, the plot unravels and you’re ultimately left with one of the lamest endings conceived. Basically, you’ve had almost two hour’s worth of build-up and suspense for absolutely nothing.
Suspense-wise, you’re definitely going to jump here and there; my poor date had to suffer through my grabbing his hand and leg on more than one occasion. Acting wise, there’s nothing substantial. Jesse McCartney draws upon his experience as a soap actor for the more emotional role and Devin Kelley who plays Amanda seems more adept at sticking out her chest than acting her way out of a bag. But I digress, horror movies aren’t exactly based on strong acting skills, right?
If you’re looking for a good suspense film, something that gives you an excuse to grab your date’s hand or squeal like a girl, then this is a good film for that. If you’re looking for something twisted, something akin to “The Hills Have Eyes” or “Silent Hill,” then this falls rather short in comparison. The director had so many opportunities to delve further into the Chernobyl mystery and play up the radiation/mutation stab, but failed to provide any substance behind his direction. For my taste, there were too many unanswered questions and vague allusions for me to be wholly impressed with the movie. The premise had a lot of potential and promise but honestly failed to deliver.
2 Out Of 5 Stars
DVD Review by Gareth Vom Kallenbach
The Blu-rau version offers sharp picture and sound quality that for me helped to enhance the film as far to often with quasi-found footage movies, they are to dark. This time, I could see all the details in vivid clarity which added a new level of appreciation to the film for me. It has some bold thingfs going for it such as telling the film from a found footage perspective, yet the person operating the camera is not part of the cast. In many ways it was like a hidden camera story, just with much better photography.
The film dragged in parts for me and made it difficult for me to have much sympathy for the characters and to be concerned about their fates. That being said, the film did have a few nice twists and turns and is a nice change up from the haunted house and posession films which have become all to frequent for my taste.
The alternate ending contained on the Blu-ray was a nice touch, and to me was a nice improvement over the original theatrical ending.
The bonus materials include an infomercial based on one of the characters and a featurette.
While it will not set any new standards for the genre, thanks to the sharp picture and sound quality the film is worth checking out and would be ideal for groups and Halloween parties.
“Chernobyl Diaries” is an original story from Oren Peli, who first terrified audiences with his groundbreaking thriller, "Paranormal Activity."
The film follows a group of six young vacationers who, looking to go off the beaten path, hire an "extreme" tour guide. Ignoring warnings, he takes them into the city of Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, but a deserted town since the disaster more than 25 years ago.
After a brief exploration of the abandoned city, however, the group soon finds themselves stranded, only to discover that they are not alone...
Brad Parker makes his feature film directorial debut with "Chernobyl Diaries." The screenplay was written by Oren Peli and Carey Van Dyke & Shane Van Dyke, based on a story by Peli. Peli also produces, with Brian Witten. Richard Sharkey, Rob Cowan, Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Allison Silver, Milan Popelka and Alison Cohen serve as executive producers.
The film's cast includes Devin Kelley, Jonathan Sadowski, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips and Dimitri Diatchenko.
BLU-RAY AND DVD ELEMENTS
“Chernobyl Diaries” Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following special features:
· Alternate Ending
· Uri’s Extreme Tours Infomercial
· Chernobyl Conspiracy Viral Video
· Deleted Scene
“Chernobyl Diaries” Standard Definition DVD contains the following special features:
· Chernobyl Conspiracy Viral Video
· Deleted Scene
DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION ELEMENTS
On October 16, “Chernobyl Diaries” will be available for download from online digital retailers including iTunes, Xbox, PlayStation, Amazon, Vudu and CinemaNow.
The film is also available digitally in High Definition (HD) VOD and Standard Definition (SD) VOD from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles.