Produced and co-written by Oren Peli, the guy behind Paranormal Activity, and directed by visual effects guru Bradley Parker, Chernobyl Diaries initially looked like good news for the horror fraternity. An intriguing, low-fi horror exploring the frightening possibilities of radiation poisoning, Chernobyl Diaries could have easily been a surprise summer gem. Sadly, it isn’t.
The film focuses on six tourists who decide to indulge in a bit of extreme tourism’ while visiting Ukraine. With their soldier-turned-tourist guide leading the way, the young travelers visit the abandoned city of Pripyat, a creepy location just a stone’s throw from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor that was evacuated and abandoned following the nuclear disaster.
When their only means of transport is somehow sabotaged, the group of tourists find themselves stranded in the abandoned city, only to discover that some of Pripyat’s population may have decided to stick around after all.
For the first Act, Chernobyl Diaries keeps things interesting purely because we don’t know exactly where the film is going to take us. Flirting with a number of possible directions, from standard slasher fare to found footage thrills via a touch of Cujo, Chernobyl’s reluctance to commit keeps you on your toes for only so long, before things take a yawn-inducing turn for the worse into slasher territory.
With a setting that is genuinely eerie (it was filmed on location in Serbia and Hungary), Parker understandably tries to make good use of his surroundings, maneuvering his ill-fated band of victims through derelict warehouses and apartment blocks, putting them through the grinder like an apocalyptic assault course. Unfortunately, Parker doesn’t have any other ideas up his sleeve and so unleashes a barrage of horror clichés and underwhelming boogeymen (which kind of look like the dudes from Bad Taste). The result is a tiresome and tedious 86 minutes.
There are a couple of good scares to be had, and Dimitri Diatchenko gives a memorable performance as the hard-as-nails tourist guide, but ultimately Chernobyl Diaries falls flat and fails due to a serious lack of originality. Shame.
Overall Verdict: Initially intriguing but ultimately unoriginal slasher fare.
Reviewer: Lee Griffiths