DVD REVIEW: Chernobyl Diaries

Chernobyl Diaries is the follow-up to Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity where a group of adults decide it would be a good idea to take an extreme tour around Chernobyl, where the biggest nuclear disaster ever occurred. They think that they are completely alone. But it is not long before they start to realise that things are not what they seem and that their safety is in major jeopardy. Peli produces an enjoyable yet predictable horror film.

The direction by Bradley Parker is executed well with some lovely shots of the seemingly abandoned city. The sky is a nice whiteish colour and gives the impression that although everything is quiet things are not right. Further Parker manages to build some feeling of dread and suspense and when the characters are put into jeopardy it is more exciting than it would have been.

With horror I think that less is more. With there being so many things that people can be afraid of and everyone being different it often works better to allow the shadows and the camera work to hide what is chasing a character and therefore allows the viewer to fill in the gaps using their own terrors. Chernobyl does this well. Although we know that they are being chased by something that has been mutated by the radiation we never truly see their faces. We get glimpses of their body shape and certain characteristics but we never see them completely, making the mutants an even more deadly menace.

Yet the characterisation is weak. It was puzzling that Peli had produced such pedestrian lines whereas in Paranormal Activity his characters felt real and sounded real. Here we get stereotypical lines for the sake of it. For example we have the hero (Paul) who seems to not be afraid of anything. His geekier brother (Chris) who does not want to go in to Chernobyl in the first place and would rather just stay and propose to his girlfriend. What is more, the plotline is predictable. The choice of Chernobyl as a centrepiece was inspired but it is clear from the get go that this is not a good idea as it would seem to anyone that going into a place that is radioactive would not be top on my holiday visits. Yet it is only Chris who seems remotely worried. Further his worry is argued away in a matter of minutes before he is happy on the bus to Chernobyl too. It is here where the story falls down. With Paranormal Activity, Peli managed to create both characters and a plot that although they were in the realm of horror seemed like things that people might do whereas entering Chernobyl out of free will just seems insane.

Another issue with the plot are some of the frights. Some are very predictable and the viewer will be able to telegraph how at least some of the scares are going to come.

All in all Chernobyl Diaries is a perfectly enjoyable horror film where you should leave your brains at the door. Parker does a good job of building a sense of foreboding that is so crucial especially in a film where some of the frights are predictable. This is nothing special but it is nothing terrible either.

Rating: 3/5
Reporter: Luke Halsall

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