Blu-Ray Review: Chernobyl Diaries

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In 1986, the greatest nuclear accident to date occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plan in Ukraine.  It was a disaster of epic proportions, destroying thousands of lives.  I’m sure that there are countless stories to be told from this tragedy and those affected.  Stories of families torn apart, government bureaucracy, the immediate fallout, the fallout years later, etc.  Leave it to Hollywood to make a cheesy horror film about people turned into mutants instead.

The Chernobyl Diaries is barely a movie at all.  The film only runs 86 minutes, although I was feeling every moment by the end.  I don’t even understand how the filmmakers pitched the film.  It’s literally the story of a group of people who take an “extreme tour” into Chernobyl for a few hours of sightseeing.  When they try to leave, the van won’t start and mutants pick them off one by one.  Throw in some hints at a government conspiracy, and that’s the whole movie.

Granted, it’s an interesting location for a film.  I’m always intrigued by depictions of ghost towns on film, and I could see the appeal of setting this in a real place.  However, the way the film is shot does no favors to the location.  This is a bland looking movie on every level.  The directors appear to be going for naturalistic, but it comes across as cheap.  The mutants barely register when seen, and are instantly forgotten when not there.

The film might have worked a little better if at least the characters were interesting.  Unfortunately, we get a group of stereotypes with no charisma and no rooting interest.  The acting is worthy of a high school play, but not a feature film.  The only specific character worth paying attention to is Yuri, the “extreme tour guide.”  It feels like there’s an unexplored history to this man, and I would have liked to see more of him.  As played by Dimitri Diatchenko, he is the only one to come across even remotely believable.

With a story by Oren Peli, the man behind Paranormal Activity and the underrated television show The River, I admit to having elevated expectations going in.  I knew it wouldn’t be great, but I thought it would be fun.  I was definitely not expecting something this dull.  It’s obvious that Warner Bros. doesn’t have any faith in the film either, with the way they have released the Blu-Ray.

This is the epitome of a release that is just slapped together.  The first bonus feature is a fake commercial for “Uri’s Extreme Tours.”  As mentioned above, Uri was my favorite character, and all this did was make him slightly cheesier.  It’s a fake ad for his newest destination, Chernobyl.  After that, there’s a very brief “viral video” presenting facts of the real Chernobyl incident.  There is absolutely nothing of substance in this feature.  Rounding out the set are a pointless deleted scene and a cheesy alternate ending that is just as bad as the one they actually went with.

I went into this film wanting to be scared.  I soon finding myself just wanting it to be over.  The film has one decent jump involving a bear that has nothing to do with the rest of the film.  I cannot emphasize enough what a waste of time this film is.  This is just a lost opportunity all around.

Chernobyl Diaries is now available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and for download!

Chernobyl Diaries (2012) on IMDb