Following his success with the groundbreaking thriller Paranormal Activity, writer Oren Peli had a significant amount of expectations hanging off his latest film, Chernobyl Diaries. Unfortunately, though, there appears to be a resounding sigh of disappointment as it fails to deliver any individuality.
The storyline follows six young tourists who, led by Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), embark on a quest for “extreme tourism” – in other words, going beyond the warning signs for danger of contamination, sneaking passed heavily armed Ukrainian soldiers, and entering into the city of Pripyat.
Formally the home to workers at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, the deserted Pripyat has been empty for over twenty-five years – at least that’s what Uri has told his accompaniment.
Predictably though, the truth is Pripypat is far from deserted…
Establishing the relationships between the characters early on, Chernobyl Diaries plays with the dynamical change of each individual as the storyline progresses from excited nerves, to terrified desperation. Although the portrayed relationships are flimsy and the fall-outs expected, the fragile threads of family ties hold together a little extra depth to the otherwise timeworn genre.
Accessorising Chernobyl Diaries are all the usual suspects: bleak landscapes, dilapidated buildings, eerie noises, and of course, flashlights. On the whole the filming is pretty standard for the horror/gore genre with close-ups of facial expressions and open wounds. There is a touch of experimentation of footage taken from a recording device (amateur-style filming) but conclusively, not much can be said that compares this film to Peli’s Paranormal Activity, which was filmed exclusively through CCTV and hand-held devices.
The suspense is short-lived as once this film gets going (and it takes its time doing so), the jumps come at you thick and fast. Because of this, the actual build up of suspension is missed out, leaving the shock-value at an all time predictable minimum.
The cast do a convincing job as naïve tourists, but it really is Diatchenko as the heavy-weight, ex-special forces tour guide Uri, who manages to hit all the right notes. Dressed in combats and a tracksuit top, he rounds off the comic stereotyping of the cast, from the typical big-busted blonde, to her not-so-big-busted brunette friend.
There is the concern of how sensitive this film is to the actual lives of those who were affected by the Chernobyl disaster, but in fact, like with all war films, you have to take it with a pinch of salt. Although the concept of mutation is a little far-fetched, it helps keep the film apart from the actual emotions behind the disaster.
If you enjoy films of this genre, then Chernobyl Diaries will fulfil your desire for jumps and gore. There is no real originality to bring this film to the forefront of anyone’s “films too see” list, but if you do have a spare 86 minutes, then the end is certainly worth watching for the ultimate climax of disappointment, if not for the audience then certainly for the doomed characters!
Chernobyl Diaries is released nationwide on 22nd June 2012.
Watch the trailer for Chernobyl Diaries here: