Oren Peli is back again to making original horror, but this time in a producer/writer capacity in Chernobyl Diaries, which tries its best to ride the wave of success of the “found footage” horror genre. While not nearly as great as the franchise that helped make him famous, this movie serves up just enough thrills and chills to make for a perfect late-night rental.
Fellow reviewer Chris Pandolfi didn’t much care for the theatrical version he saw earlier this year, and those wishing to read his full review of the theatrical experience can do so HERE:
“The film is not a found footage mockumentary, although there are moments when characters – and, by extension, the audience – look at footage shot on someone else’s camera. There are two distinct scenes like that. One is the opening montage, before the terror has started. The other is much later on, when two unfortunate individuals are left in a dead van while everyone else is out looking for help. Other moments make ample use of an omniscient Queasy Cam as people wander through dark corridors holding flickering flashlights. There’s a lot of calling out for people that either aren’t there or already dead (or both), plenty of screaming and crying, and vague silhouettes of things that go bump in the night. There are also many instances in which characters are suddenly grabbed and pulled into the shadows or out of sight altogether. Their screams tell us everything we need to know.”
I thought the movie started off well enough by drawing you in with the clichéd young group of characters, the spooky setting of the area they become trapped in and the freaky things they encounter. Sadly, it isn’t long before the film just falls apart. It becomes painfully obvious the more you watch, the more you can tell this was just put together quickly to ride on the coattails of the Paranormal Activity franchise, but with a Blair Witch-like spin on it. There’s just so many things that don’t add up by the time you get to the end, such as the plot, pacing and ending that I won’t spoil of course, but is sure to let down many just so it can get in some cheap scare shots.
At least the visuals and audio are pretty good, as the video transfer on the Blu-ray is sharp and clean, allowing all of the seen and unseen details to come through like they should. The 5.1 DTS-HD audio brings in all the screams, yells and scary sounds perfectly. As far as extras go, there’s two viral ads that were used on the internet to help promote the film, a few deleted scenes, and an alternate ending that’s a little more believable than the one used in the movie, but still not all that great.
Chernobyl Diaries tries hard to be an exciting, thrilling experience, but sadly comes up almost as big of a disaster then the famed accident it’s based on with a muddled plot that falls apart followed by a disappointing ending. Writer/producer Orin Peli has tried hard to live up the lofty expectations of his Paranormal Activity fame, but the strange mixing of mysterious – and mythmaking – Blair Witch-style editing with the ‘found footage’ genre only serves to create a shaky mess. Everything here just screams clichéd filmmaking, and those looking for some real horror flicks to watch will find better elsewhere. But if you’re just looking for a decent horror rental and don’t expect much from it, this Blu-ray will serve your chill factor nicely.
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Warner Home Video