On April 26th, 1986, a Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded in Ukraine. The explosion released radioactive chemicals that spread throughout Europe. Prypiat, a city close to the plant, suffered from horrible radiation. Citizens were not immediately informed of the occurrence, and many became severely ill. Later, thousands of people who were exposed to the radiation developed cancer, and some even died. To this day, the event is still considered the worst nuclear power plant disaster in all of history. In 2012, six tourists decide to go to Chernobyl for the day to take in the sights. What could possibly go wrong?
Oren Peli, writer and director of Paranormal Activity, wrote the screenplay for Chernobyl Diaries and helped produce it. Although he didn’t direct it, the movie entailed some of Peli’s signature marks, like the use of darkness, handheld cameras, and victims being quickly dragged away by an unidentifiable villain. Every director all has a certain style that is evident in each film. However, with every new movie, he or she will challenge his or herself to create new material. Peli just seems to be repeating himself. Chernobyl Diaries felt just like Paranormal Activity, with less ghosts and more radiation poisoning. Peli’s bag of tricks worked in the past, but this was his opportunity to play his strengths, and instead he chose to sit on the bench.
Not only were the scares predictable, but the ending was very anticlimactic. It’s funny, because the Paranormal Activity franchise has the same problem. Peli knows how to build tension, but once he has the audience in his grasp, he seems unsure about what to do with them. Was Paranormal Activity Peli’s best work? Does he have nothing left up his sleeve? And, can he write an ending worthy of praise?
Of course, Peli can’t be completely to blame. Director Bradley Parker had a hand in the making of the film, but it was really the writing that suffered. The environment oozed of annihilation, which added to the film’s grit, but it wasn’t enough to save it from the lackluster final scene. Also, some moments were actually laughable, like the random bear in the apartment that the group was exploring. On the plus side, Parker provided some interesting shots.
The characters meshed well, but none of them were very memorable, just like the movie itself. The film started out slowly, then tried to quickly catch up in the end, which made the ending that much more dissatisfying. It had all of the elements, and it certainly had the money, but overall, Chernobyl Diaries was a disappointment. There were a few good scares, and the film had potential, but the feeling you’ll get when you exit the theater is one of emptiness, like something was missing. Wait for it to hit Blockbuster, because Chernobyl Diaries isn’t worth the high prices at the theater.