DVD Review: Chernobyl Diaries
Directed By: Bradley Parker
Starring: Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Olivia Dudley, Devin Kelley
Since directing the first Paranormal Activity film back in 2007 Oren Peli has decided to step away from the directors chair and instead get behind the pen and paper to write the screenplay for movies and over the time each film that he has been involved in has particularly shone, in fact he has been involved in some of the worst horror films of the last few years. The reason why he hasn’t done that well on the writing side of things is that he has given his stories to directors who haven’t worked on much in the past and this is the case with Chernobyl Diaries, however could this finally be the film that break Peli’s curse and set a new director on a good track.
The film centers around 3 friends who have decided to go on a trip across Europe but intend to stop off in Kiev so Chris (Jesse McCartney) can surprise his brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), once he meets up with his brother they decide to have a night out on the town this is where Paul reveals to them that he has set up an interesting trip to the small town of Priypiat which is located on the outskirts of Chernobyl where a horrible nuclear disaster happened. before heading out to Prypiat they meet up with their tour guide Yuri and another couple who are joining them. On reaching the outskirts of the town they are stopped by armed guards who tell them they aren’t allowed in however this doesn’t stop the group and they find an alternative route. After spending a few hours in the town they head back to their tour bus where they discover that it has been tampered with and they might not be alone.
The story itself has a very typical premise however from the start of the film you realize that what both the director and writer have done is that they have taken a very simple story but put it in a setting where a horror film has been crying out to be set. You see Prypiat this abandon town where the families of the workers of the Chernobyl reactor stayed and they had to flee there when the reactor went off leaving everything behind, this gave the town the eerie real life setting that should have been used in a movie like this by now and it’s used well, with dilapidated merry-go rounds and big wheels just left their to rust and wither.
The problems with the film however occur as soon as you get over the setting as what we have here under the surface is just another run of the mill horror film that is lacking in every other department. You see the cast is filled with actors who haven’t a clue at what they are doing most of the time, screaming a looking scared on cue is the best of their abilities and this really distracts you from the film. It’s not just the acting that is lazy as well the story follows the same kind of check list that we have seen a hundred times before and is some cases better.
Leaving aside the bad acting and the lack luster story the biggest downfall of Chernobyl Diaries is that is has nothing in the scares department, even though you have a setting where there should be scares and jumps around every corner you have whimper’s and the odd boo instead and this is a waste of an interesting location. It doesn’t get any better when we go inside some of the buildings on offer as they have no tension in them at all despite them having the dark and creepy look that should provide the scares needed.
Overall what you have here is a fantastic idea that is surrounded by the usual clichés that drag a horror movie down to the bad level instead of it shining like it should have. What Parker and Peli should have done is taken the simple idea they had and the fantastic location they have been give and just done a movie centered around a two characters that have been trapped there instead of just making the same kind of bog standard film we are now used to from Peli. Having a fantastic location is not enough to save a very lazy film like this and in better hands would have been much more better.