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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
For more about Chernobyl Diaries and the Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray release, see Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on November 10, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips, Alex Feldman, Jonathan Sadowski
» See full cast & crew
Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray Review
They should've gone to Epcot.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, November 10, 2012
I'm thinking Wes Craven should go ahead and contact his lawyer.
Bearing an uncomfortable resemblance to Craven's 1977 shocker, "The Hills Have Eyes" (which spawned a marvelous 2006 remake from Alexandre Aja), the creators of "Chernobyl Diaries" have a lot of explaining to do. Of course, pinching a premise from a cult classic is the least of the cinematic offenses found in this stillborn horror creation, as the wretched acting, moronic dialogue, and general void found in the picture causes far more irritation than simple déjà vu. The cure for insomnia, "Chernobyl Diaries" is yet another 2012 chiller with nothing to offer its hungry audience beyond a few cheap scares and a miserable attempt at mystery. Considering the spread of death and disease following the actual 1986 disaster at Chernobyl, the film is borderline tasteless too, turning unimaginable human suffering into a playground for Hollywood stupidity.
Off on a European vacation with pal Amanda (Devin Kelley) and girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley), Chris (Jesse McCartney) has made plans to stop off in Ukraine to visit his estranged brother, Paul (Jonathan Sadowski). Hoping to make a heroic impression on his sibling, Paul has arranged time with "Extreme Tourism" expert Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), with plans to visit Prypiat, the city near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, and explore the remains of the deserted, radioactive community. Joined by travelers Michael (Nathan Phillips) and Zoe (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), the gang heads off into the unknown, anxious to see the contaminated area. Planning to spend only a few hours inside a restricted neighborhood, the visit becomes permanent when the group loses their ride to safety and Chris is mortally wounded. Facing the darkness alone, the frightened tourists soon realize the abandoned apartments and factories aren't actually abandoned, but inhabited by cannibalistic mutants, ready to devour fresh meat.
"Chernobyl Diaries" emerges from the mind of Oren Peli, who co-scripts (with Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke) and produces, using a formula for scares that became law with the monster box office success of his 2009 feature, "Paranormal Activity." Peli's actual directorial follow-up, "Area 51," has been gathering dust on a studio shelf for over two years now, but that's another story. With "Chernobyl Diaries," Peli hands creative control to Bradley Parker, a visual effects artist making his directorial debut, tasked with organizing a frightening tale of survival when most of the terror emerges from aural shocks and screams in the darkness. It's not an inspiring launch to a celebrated moviemaking career, with Parker barely contributing an effort to inject creepiness into the proceedings, finding more pleasure focusing on the insipid banter shared by the visitors, most of it improvised, riddled with profanity to create "reality." I can't believe it took three people to write this thing.
While the picture wins points for abandoning the tired "found footage" format swallowing the genre these days, "Chernobyl Diaries" doesn't do nearly enough with its dramatic angle. Most of the movie is devoted to dopey character interaction and the tentative inspection of areas near the power plant, finding a close encounter with a runaway bear the only real jolt in the first half of the film. There's a barking mutant fish too, but I don't have a clue how to even begin to describe that brief bit of absurdity. Instead of feeling encroaching dread, the viewer is forced to endure untested actors indicating wildly to help them stand out in front of the camera, while batting around a little familial drama as Chris and Paul work out some brotherly trust issues as the day trip goes to hell. The script labors to establish a few emotional beats to help plug viewers into the mood of this bland group, but there's really no point. I'd trade all the laborious interplay and formulaic backstories for one genuine scare.
Once night falls and the gang is left to die in the dark, Parker doesn't crank up the intensity as expected, instead working tired haunted house tropes, following these individuals as they stumble around the unknown armed only with flashlights and the F-word. Chernobyl is a ripe setting for some seriously unsettling business, but Peli and the production do nothing with the bleak potential. The mutant uprising is a disastrous creative choice, turning the endeavor into a mean-spirited cartoon with no one to root for and nothing to care about. There are also a few puzzling gaps in logic as well, including the character of Paul, who speaks fluent Ukrainian throughout the film, yet pleads for his life in front of Chernobyl guards in English.
Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 & 1.61:1 aspect ratios) presentation is working with a traditional offering of digital cinematography, leaving an extremely clean, flat viewing experience that sustains crispness throughout the entire movie. Black levels aren't particularly deep or inviting, but they maintain some feel for textures and distances, while flashlight-flooded evening sequences display mild solidification. Some banding is detected. Colors are generally unwelcome around these parts, with the overall image carrying a cold bluish-gray look highlighting only the occasional pop of a generous hue. Bloodshed does retain its natural red, while costuming keeps the image somewhat varied. Fine detail is quite good, offering a textured read of crumbling ghost town particulars, while facial responses register with intended emotion and infrequent nuance.
Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix doesn't quite rattle the senses as one might expect from a horror picture, with the majority of the track devoted to dialogue exchanges that grow more pointed as the film unfolds. Voices are crisp and weighty, while group activity is nicely balanced without any distortion. It's a quiet movie that portions its shocks sparingly, preferring to set the mood through atmospherics, which are satisfactorily represented here with mild surround interest, keeping wind, echo, and water movement alive, while more traditional terror elements join the festivities in the last act, sinking into an immersive, directional event. Low-end is light but effective when called upon, keeping soundtrack cuts anchored and emphasizing jolts. Sound effects, such as croaking radiation detectors, are pleasingly amplified to unnerve.
Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There's no care involved in the creation of "Chernobyl Diaries," which has been made solely to cash in on a horror craze. The picture is second-rate and ridiculous (especially the ending) and, worst of all, it's completely uneventful.
Chernobyl Diaries: Other Editions
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Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray - August 11, 2012
In October, Warner Home Entertainment will bring Chernobyl Diaries to Blu-ray. Written and produced by Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity), this supernatural thriller follows some American tourists as they tour a city devastated by the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown and ...
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