DIRECTOR Bradley Parker WRITER Oren Peli; Carey Van Dyke; Shane Van Dyke STARS Jesse McCartney; Jonathan Sadowski; Olivia Taylor Dudley CINEMA Now
Pitched as from the creator of Paranormal Activity — Oren Peli, who dreamed up the story and shared screenplay efforts — this title is highly unlikely to be as impactive, bringing nothing new to the genre.
Set in Prypyat, the real-life ghost town near the titular nuclear power plant — I’m amazed it took this long to make a film around the circumstances — the opener is not promising, subjecting to us the usual hand-held POV nonsense associated with the ‘backpacker in peril’ subgenre, as we’re introduced to our initial three characters. Thankfully this is shifted to regular hand-held thereafter, but all the rest of the usual cliches are there, save a rather unexpected appearance from a brown bear. Presumably said bear is a mutant, like the twisted monsters coming for the group.
Aside from the predictability of it all, a big criticism is that it’s difficult to feel the isolation. A ghost town of over two decades really ought to exude a unique atmosphere, yet these characters could be anywhere; clearly some more attention ought to have been paid to set-piece. An easy partial solution could have addressed this issue by simply having the characters speak a little less, a natural psychological reaction to what is an alien atmosphere, and yet this did not occur to the filmmakers, robbing Chernobyl Diaries of an essential element.
What is done reasonably well is the attacks. With more of a glimpse of the mutant(s) with each incident, this is an instil of progressive tension, implying that we will get a good look at these monsters. We don’t, not quite, and this was reasonably effective. Also, the presence of gore as the victims are found literally torn apart could have very easily been over-the-top, but the decision was made for understatement, which, these days, is a refreshing change. The latter is however not quite as complementary as it could be; perhaps here a gory approach could have made up for what is lacking elsewhere.