When I was walking out of the theater everyone was saying, “I thought this was supposed to be a found footage movie.” That said, Bradley Parker’s Chernobyl Diaries is not a found footage film but it has that same feel to it. It has the shaky camera work and eye-level angles that make you feel like you are seeing what the characters are. There was no establishing shots or anything of that nature. So if you are not a found footage fan based on the way it looks, you probably will not like this horror movie. But if you are like me and do like found footage moviesl you will like it at least a little bit.
The story is as follows: A group of American friends go on a trip to Europe and stop to visit one’s brother who signs them up for a tour with a few other foreigners guided by an ex-special ops officer to the ruins of the radiation zone of Chernobyl only to find it is not abandoned after all. If I had to make a comparison, it is The Hills Have Eyes meets any found footage movie like Paranormal Activity or Cloverfield. I am not going to go much further into the plot because I do not want to risk spoiling anything. So instead here is the trailer to spoil things for you:
Chernobyl Diaries was the directorial debut of Bradley Parker who until this point did visual effects and it shows. The visuals in this movie are great! The eerie setting and lighting is a effective when companied with those tension building pauses typical of Oren Peli’s work that set up jumpy scenes. For those that do not know, Peli is the director and creator of Paranormal Activity. That said I was expecting a little more originality to the story. It was very predictable and was nothing we had not seen in other horror movies. The characters are nothing unique and add up to the stereotypical ones of every horror movie (group leader, wing-man, love interest, that whiny/annoying person you cannot wait to see die, etc). So needless to say I could care less what happened to them.
Even though the characters lacked the acting really was not too bad. No one was really over the top with emotion which is unusual for a horror movie where people are getting picked off one by one. Jesse McCartney and Jonathan Sadowski worked well as brothers and played off each other real well, Olivia Dudley was the clingy girlfriend that I did not like but did not hate, Devin Kelley was great in here role by growing as the movie goes, Nathan Phillips was practical as Michael, and Dimitri Diatchenko was great as the Ukrainian ex-special ops officer, Uri. Ingrid Bolso Berdal was very forgettable and replaceable as Zoe, a character that did nothing.
Overall, I give it a 6/10. It something fun to go to with friends. It is by no means adds anything new. I kind of expected a little more from Oren Peli after Paranormal Activity and The River.