R-rated horror films have been very hit or miss as of late and Chernobyl Diaries is one massive miss. It doesn’t even get close to landing, in fact it doesn’t even try to achieve something, it just never goes anywhere. Produced by Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) and starring a bunch of nobodies, plus Jesse McCartney (???), Chernobyl Diaries revolves around a loose concept that’s clearly ripped off from other more clever horror films. It’s bloodless, gutless and terribly slow.
Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), his brother Chris (Jesse McCartney) and few other friends/backpackers decide to do the dumbest thing possible and hire a sketchy “extreme” tourist to take them to the radioactive wasteland that was once Chernobyl. They take a prehistoric bus across do-not-cross borders and from that point one thing after another goes bad in a hurry. The car has problems, they hear weird noises and eventually they get attached by mutants, bears, dogs and your grandma Willow. I’m kidding about the Willow part, but the direction that newcomer director Bradley Parker takes Chernobyl Diaries in doesn’t leave out the possibility of a possible cameo role for anyone, because Chernobyl Diaries never actually shows you what’s doing all of the attacking.
If your definition of showing is seeing very brief glimpses of a face or a shadowy figure then the film does reveal its mysterious creatures, but that just doesn’t cut it for me. Horror films often rely on building up the suspense until the final last act reveal, but Chernobyl Diaries doesn’t have that final reveal. It doesn’t really ever begin, which means it never ends.
The film starts out handheld and smartly moves to a more traditional storytelling way, which is one of the film’s positives. Parker shoots everything over-the-shoulder and in your face, but he never makes us accept the idea of some idiot filming his friends getting killed and eventually dying in front of his own camera and I credit him for that one, but that’s where the compliments end.
Chernobyl Diaries has not a single clue as to what it’s trying to accomplish. The little story that’s presented takes turns being serious and realistic and then it switches directions and becomes just another cliche horror flick with idiots running around like their heads have just been chopped off, which doesn’t actually happen in the film.
Blood and gore never get to shine on the screen and the mutant beings that do most of the stalking never get revealed or described. The trailer shows you everything in terms of what is really going on behind-the-scenes.
There’s a steady buildup of suspense that might fool you for the first twenty minutes, but the film’s true intentions are quickly and sloppily revealed, thus leaving you with another hour or so of countless horseshit. Chernobyl Diaries is basically like watching a dog take a slow shit and then when the dog is FINALLY done doing his business you somehow manage to step in it.
You spend time trying to give the film a chance to warm up and get good, but then when it poops out its recycled ending you only end up hating yourself even more for ever thinking there was going to be more to the film.
The whole non-reveal buildup would have worked if Parker actually revealed something shocking or twisty, but the ending is exactly what you’d expect and it doesn’t add a damn thing to the minutes building up to that point.
The acting is atrocious as expected, with Jesse McCartney being the worst of the bunch acting like a little crybaby for the entire running time.
I’m not sure how much of Chernobyl Diaries was Oren Peli‘s, but if this is any indication of the quality of his work then I’m starting to think that Paranormal Activity was a complete fluke and that’s not saying much because even that film was mediocre at best. It supplied a few scares and some effective do-it-yourself filmmaking secrets, but it didn’t really help the horror genre if you stop and think about it. Chernobyl Diaries is much worse, because it copies stuff like The Hills Have Eyes and it even reminded me a bit of Cloverfield when it tried holding off the reveal by using tricky lighting and quick camera movements.
But Chernobyl Diaries is a really bad movie and Cloverfield and The Hills Have Eyes are really good movies.
Chernobyl Diaries – 6/10