Given that I enjoyed the Paranormal Activity series for the most part I was somewhat excited about by what Oren Peli would bring us next. Watching the trailer for Chernobyl Diaries the premise seemed like a good idea – drop off a few audacious, downright daft 20 somethings in a radiation-infected ghost town and let the chaos ensue.
Before going into this screening I had no inkling of anyone making up the cast. I guess in many horror movies you can assume half the cast will be obliterated so technically you’re not supposed to care. It was a little to my surprise that I found Jesse McCartney, who had that hit Beautiful Soul making up the doomed outfit, running for their lives against these haunted souls.
…never took advantage of the history or ancient architecture…
By no means am I a horror enthusiast, but if you’re going to place your characters in such an intriguing setting as Prypiat, which was set up to house workers for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and was then abandoned following the Chernobyl disaster, you need to make as much use of that setting as you can. The biggest let down for me was Peli never took advantage of the history or architecture of Prypiat and the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
In the end Chernobyl Diaries turns into a run-of-the-mill horror film where there is very little you haven’t seen before. There has to be more mystery and less cliché especially when the setting of your story is an abandoned radiation-affected town.
…a run-out-the-clock type situation…
If you don’t maintain a sense of atmosphere and mystery then there is nothing more to show than a run-out-the-clock type situation where the story will conclude when the last character is cut up into pieces. Also, who said all horror films have to always include annoying, hopeless characters? Sometimes it can be about those who we care about and want to live on and fight another day.