Blu-ray Review: ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ Fails to Transcend Offensive Premise

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CHICAGO – There’s something very wrong with Bradley Parker’s “Chernobyl Dairies,” and the problem is right there in its title. The very notion of setting a knee-jerk horror film at the site of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster is so offensive that it’s bound to halt many moviegoers from judging the picture on its own terms. It’s the cinematic equivalent of an obscenely tasteless haunted house.

After directing the best found footage thriller since 1999’s “Blair Witch Project,” producer Oren Peli has floundered in the years following his spectacular success with 2007’s “Paranormal Activity.” It’s hard to see what Peli found appealing about the derivative subject matter in “Chernobyl Diaries,” causing him to serve as both a co-producer and co-writer. The film is no different from the vast majority of generic horror trash available on FearNet, where Parker’s picture is undoubtedly destined to become available. Blu-ray Rating: 2.0/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 2.0/5.0

See if this sounds familiar: a group of young hot friends are taking a picturesque “Eurotrip” when they make the ill-advised decision to embark on some “extreme tourism” led by the laughably incompetent Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko). The three vacationing couples think it would be fun to pose in front of the abandoned buildings located near the nuclear power plant that unleashed catastrophic quantities of radioactive contamination. “It’s really sad, actually…” thoughtfully replies one of the blonder soon-to-be victims. Uri insists that radiation levels are harmless, as long as the tourists agree to leave before night falls. Sure enough, Uri’s car fails to start, thus forcing the six protagonists to make an escape on foot. Guess how well that plan works out.

Chernobyl Diaries was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 16th, 2012.
Chernobyl Diaries was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 16th, 2012.
Photo credit: Warner Home Video

The deformed figures lurking through the spooky town have already earned countless comparisons to the mutants in “The Hill Have Eyes,” yet the framing is so murky and the editing is so choppy that audiences are never afforded a good look at their wretched features. Parker does an efficient job of building suspense, and there are a handful of moments that are genuinely eerie. As the incorrigible show-off who places his full confidence in Uri, Jonathan Sadowski nicely navigates his character’s emotional arc (pop star Jesse McCartney is also surprisingly effective as his exasperated brother). Unfortunately, the film simply isn’t good enough (or scary enough) to transcend the inexcusable tastelessness of its premise. Perhaps Parker will have better luck with his sophomore feature effort. I’d gladly check it out, just as long as it isn’t named “Auschwitz Diaries.”

“Chernobyl Diaries” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English, French and Spanish audio tracks and includes Blu-ray, DVD and UltraViolet copies of the film. The scant extras barely run over five minutes and are highlighted by a lame alternate ending that should’ve remained on the cutting room floor. What’s most perplexing is a miniature featurette that feebly infers that top secret military experiments continue to occur at Chernobyl. The featurette is preceded by a title card warning that the following information is comprised of both facts and speculation. Yet the information is conveyed in such a fragmented and incoherent manner that it fails to have any impact at all, aside from further souring the taste left in moviegoers’ mouths.

‘Chernobyl Diaries’ is released by Warner Home Video and stars Devin Kelley, Jonathan Sadowski, Jesse McCartney, Olivia Dudley, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal and Dimitri Diatchenko. It was written by Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke and directed by Bradley Parker. It was released on October 16th, 2012. It is rated R. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

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Thank you for posting your

Thank you for posting your review on Chernobyl Diaries, Matt. Now that you mention it, I can see how this movie might be offensive to Chernobyl victims, but initially I simply thought it was something along the lines of the Hills Have Eyes. Honestly, it was the location and setting that attracted me to the movie. Sadly, the director failed to utilize the location in an effective way; frankly he failed on every level. This movie wasn’t scary and ended up being a big waste of time.

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