Oren Peli dabbles. He enjoys various aspects of the filmmaking process. As the scribe of the entire Paranormal Activity franchise and the director of the first installment, Peli also enjoys going beyond the pen and the director's chair to produce a feature every now and again. This time around, Peli is tackling the business end of 2012's newest horror film, Chernobyl Diaries. At the helm of the project is first time director Bradley Parker, most known for his visual effects work on the 1999 mind-bending thriller Fight Club. But one question remains, can the horror guru and newbie director deliver another hit?
Chernobyl Diaries revolves around Paul (played by Sadowski), an American born young adult now living in Kiev. When Paul's brother Chris (played by McCartney) travels to visit (along with Chris' girlfriend Natalie and mutual friend Amanda), Paul plans an "extreme tourism" excursion to Chernobyl. Completely run down and supposedly abandoned, due to the nuclear disaster that happened there in 1986, Paul and company discover that there's something living at Chernobyl.
Bradley Parker's Chernobyl Diaries is an unoriginal and superficial endeavor into the horror genre. What begins as an intriguing premise and suspenseful tale, ultimately unfolds in a reiterated and reused fashion. To its benefit, Chernobyl Diaries doesn't hesitate to jump into the thrills. However, once the scares begin, the movie spends very little time developing any sense of a meaningful plot. This becomes a frustrating aspect of the film since there's plenty of opportunities to elaborate more on a minimally addressed plot point. By failing to do so, Chernobyl Diaries ends up feeling all too flat and lacking in any depth. In addition to its flaws in the screenplay, the horror tale also falls victim to a second and third act that's completely overfilled with unnecessary chase scenes. Reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project, Chernobyl Diaries chooses to spend most of its duration having its central characters running from a villain that we hardly get to see. Rather than using screen time to build on a strong premise, the film mimics The Blair Witch Project to a fault. Furthermore, Chernobyl Diaries is filled with weak dialogue and mediocre acting, resulting in a failed attempt on many different levels.
On the other hand, there's a few redeeming qualities to 2012's newest horror effort. Chernobyl Diaries remains at least mildly entertaining throughout its mere 90 minute runtime. Also, the feature hints at an intelligent rationale for the events that transpire on screen. Yet, you can only walk away wishing that the writers had done more with the idea. Therefore, as the Chernobyl Diaries concludes, it feels more like a letdown than an abomination.
Much like Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity, Chernobyl Diaries leaves plenty to be desired. The entertainment value and the occasional scare are prevalent, but its one dimensional feel is far too disappointing to ignore. The core ideas are there, but the necessary creativity and execution are not.