Directed by: Bradley Parker
Starring: Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Dimitri Diatchenko

The Ukrainian ghost town of Pripyat would seem (to me at least) to be a perfect place to set a horror movie. If you've seen photos of its crumbling buildings, overgrown vegetation and forgotten belongings littering the place, you'll know just how eerie a place it looks. So CHERNOBYL DIARIES already has a guaranteed awesome location (Well technically the movie wasn't filmed on location in Pripyat, however if you compare photos to the scenery in the movie you can see that they have done a great job in trying to recreate the look), but what about the rest of the movie?

We start off with a video montage showing a group of American tourists goofing their way around Europe. This is the only real representation of the video diary aspect hinted at in the title. Cut to the same tourists talking about 'extreme tourism' which consists of being taken to Pripyat by a dodgy ex-special forces tour guide. After being turned away from a checkpoint they find a back way in and start to make their way through the abandoned city while their guide Uri (Diatchenko) talks them through the history of the place.
After spending a short time there the group are ready to leave, but surprise, surprise, the van they travelled there in has been sabotaged. Soon they realize that they are not alone in Pripyat. Something is stalking them in the shadow of Chernobyl.

The biggest selling point of this movie seems to be that it was penned by Oren Peli, the creator of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise. Obviously for PA fans this will be a major draw and even people who hated the PA franchise (like me) will be interested to see how Peli does outside of that tired spookfest.
Although the movies differ vastly in both location, format (no found footage here - save for the short intro sequence) and atmosphere, they are both similar when you get down to the bare bones. Both PA and CHERNOBYL DIARIES show a small group of people running around in the dark, screaming and crying and acting stupid while being pursued by an unknown enemy. So in essence Peli hasn't really strayed far from his comfort zone at all.

The scenes after the group arrive at Pripyat are probably the most interesting in the whole film. Uri goes through some short snatches of history and they make their way through eerily empty buildings. Once they get back to the van and find it sabotaged though, things get very predictable, cliché and stupid. And dark too. This movie is very dark. Sometimes this is a good way to ratchet up the tension but unfortunately for CHERNOBYL DIARIES it seems that the intense darkness is there to hide the film's shortcomings rather than to enhance the atmosphere.

The writing is lousy, the acting is average at best, the 'scares' are cheap and everything (apart from the setting) just feels like it has been recycled from other horror films. Films like WRONG TURN, THE HILLS HAVE EYES and THE DESCENT come to mind but CHERNOBYL DIARIES doesn't even come close to any of them.

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