Chernobyl Diaries is a film that uses cheap scares to further a thin and lame story which puts some of the worst episodes of “Lost” to shame. In any case, to go along with a dumb plot and average performances, the Blu-ray doesn’t exactly have the greatest audio/video transfers and the features are paltry.
Genre(s): Horror, Suspense-Thriller
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 86 min. – $35.99 | October 16, 2012
Directed by: Bradley Parker
Writer(s): Oren Peli (story), Oren Peli and Carey Van Dyke & Shane Van Dyke (screenplay)
Cast: Ingrid Bolso Bordal, Dimitri Diatchenko, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Devin Kelley, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips, Jonathan Sadowski
Theatrical Release Date: May 24, 2012
Features: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, DVD Copy, UltraViolet Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 16.2 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 1.75/5
Chernobyl Diaries begins like one of many of those “found footage” flicks that have permeated and invaded cinemas since The Blair Witch Project. Thankfully, after the first few minutes, it transitions to standard filmmaking, though the handheld nature still gave it a found footage vibe. However, found footage or not, it doesn’t matter because either way this was not a well made picture.
The thin story follows friends – Paul (JONATHAN SADOWSKI), his brother Chris (JESSE MCCARTNEY), Chris’ girlfriend Natalie (OLIVIA DUDLEY), and unattached hottie Amanda (DEVIN KELLEY) – as they explore the Ukrainian nightlife when impulsive Paul signs them up for an “extreme tour” of the abandoned city near the Chernobyl disaster. Leading the tour is a former (IIRC) Ukrainian Special Forces soldier Uri (DIMITRI DIATCHENKO) and joining the group are newlyweds Michael (NATHAN PHILLIPS) and Zoe (INGRID BOLSO BERDAL).
Yep, now that we get this bland band of merry men (and women) together, Uri takes them to an abandoned housing project but has to take the scenic route when the road in has two guards who, with no explanation, will not allow to pass. So taking the bumpy road, the tourists get some lovely pictures as well as get a glimpse at something in the water.
Upon arriving into the creepy town, they explore around for a bit before going into an abandoned building, where they discover they’re not alone when… a friggin’ bear charges at them down a hallway. It would seem one of the writers was a fan of “Lost” because this was so random and has absolutely no payoff later other than being a cheap, quick scare.
And that’s really what sums up Chernobyl Diaries: One long movie filled with cheap scares filling in empty spaces where plot or character should have been. I understand why Hollywood would go after such a project from writer Oren Peli as he created one of the hottest and most profitable franchises with Paranormal Activity. However, I suspect this was a project he either had placed at the bottom of a drawer or churned out on a boring, rainy afternoon; it’s a similar situation Kevin Williamson was in after the success of Scream that Columbia immediately bought I Know What You Did Last Summer. I don’t know if Chernobyl was written before Paranormal, but it’s obviously a lesser effort of the pair.
Not that it matters much, but how does the cast stack up? I guess based on the limited material they had to work with — 2-dimensional characters and a lame/inane/thin plot — they weren’t awful (what a compliment). Obviously this being a low budget affair, according to Wikipedia it was $1 million, you’re not going to get top Hollywood talent (Jesse McCartney is the only name I recognize).
All in all, Chernobyl Diaries might have been a good idea in principle and on paper, but the final product instead was a boring and inane story that attempts to use “spooky” music and cheap scares to set the tone rather than doing the hard work of actually thrilling audiences. Now, it’s certainly not a horrible film and I have seen much worse, but that’s not saying much.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.5/5
This release comes with a glossy slip cover.
Short Feature: Uri’s Extreme Tours Infomercial (1:19; HD) is a fake commercial for the fictional extreme tour business.
Short Feature: Chernobyl Conspiracy Viral Video (2:25; HD) – This is a dumb feature which portends that events in the movie were, in part, real.
The set also includes a Deleted Scene (0:48; HD), an Alternate Ending (1:50; HD) which does differ from the theatrical version (and not quite as lame), and a retail DVD Copy and an UltraViolet Digital Copy.
Preview – The Dark Knight Rises
VIDEO – 3.75/5
Warner Brothers unleashes Chernobyl Diaries upon the masses with a 1080p high-def transfer. The film, presented with a 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio (from a 1.85 AR in theaters), looks fine but it’s not exactly the most detailed Blu-ray I’ve come across. Still, the colors seem to be well balanced and black levels don’t show off any flaws. I consider this transfer to be satisfactory especially given the low budget nature.
AUDIO – 3.5/5
The disc comes with an adequate but low-key 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. As one would expect, most of the film is filled with a combination of dialogue and blood-curdling screams in between which we get some that so-called atmospheric score.
OVERALL – 2.0/5
Overall, Chernobyl Diaries is a film that uses cheap scares to further a thin and lame story which puts some of the worst episodes of “Lost” to shame. In any case, to go along with a dumb plot and average performances, the Blu-ray doesn’t exactly have the greatest audio/video transfers and the features are paltry.