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Chernobyl Diaries (Blu-ray Review)

Chernobyl, 1986: As the worst nuclear disaster in history unfolds, residents are driven from their homes in the nearby city city of Pripyat without enough tim eto grab even their most precious personal belongings. Over 25 years later, six young vacationers and their “extreme tourism” guide visit Pripyat to explore the ruins of a city now desolate and seemingly abandoned. But when they’re forced to stay the night , they soon discover that they may not be alone in this eerie shocker by coproducer/cowriter Oren Peli, creator of Paranormal Activity.  

Film 

From Oren Peli, the uber producer and creator of Paranormal Activity, comes the next step in terror: Chernobyl Diaries. Six vacationing friends and their tour guide are set to tackle the now legendary nuclear remains of Chernobyl. Their goal is to hit up Pripyat and see the remnants of the factory and surrounding areas. Sounds great, right? It depends.

The area they’re trying to reach is guarded by soldiers, so they’ll have to use their wits and their “extreme survival” guide’s resourcefulness to get around that pesky notion of “NO TRESPASSING, BECAUSE THE RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT WILL KILL YOU” nonsense. I had a better time with these people when we’re first introduced to them. Sure, their lives are vapid, but at least the cities and locales they’re in are cool to look at.

Even when it was time to introduce some danger into the mix – it didn’t happen quite fast enough for me. That’s saying a lot considering the film runs for 80-minutes without credits. Anyways, so these dumb people make it around the signs and set forth to discover the decimated remains of the areas hit by the meltdown all those years ago. They will come across mutated fish, roadkill, wild dogs, and a bear. Okay, my favorite scene is when the bear was introduced. It was so cool and out of the ordinary, but I digress.

Aside from those nature elements there is also something not right. The group comes under the impression that they’re being tracked and watched by an unseen menace. Who cares. Let’s investigate! Chernobyl Diaries quickly falls into the categorie of leaving common sense at the door and switching it with stupidity.

By the time the finale hits and we’re given the big explanation of what this whole mess was about it’s too litte, too late, and actually a pretty lame of an explanation, because it just raises more questions than answers. I normally don’t care about a film being ambiguous, but it does not work when a film is only 80-minutes long like this one. The ending of Chernobyl Diaries feels like someone pulled the rug from under me. I’m mixed when it comes to material by Oren Peli. He’s a horror film super-producer, with the massive success of the first Paranormal Activity film, but Chernobyl Diaries feels like a rush job. I do give it props in terms of budget and resourcefulness. I’m sure the film didn’t cost more than 5 million to make, but that still doesn’t excuse the script rush job. I look forward to more from Oren and I hope he gets back into the director’s chair soon. Chernobyl Diaries is a major disappointment in terms of story, but does have a couple of redeeming qualities, mainly in terms of visuals and direction. Rent it, pass on it, either way, you won’t be missing much.

 Video 

Chernobyl Diaries is presented in 1080p, 1.85:1 widescreen. The trailers gave the impression that the film would be shot in the “found footage” style of filmmaking that’s very popular right now. Well, yes and no. Yes, the camera tends to shake during scenes of action and peril, no, it’s not a found footage shoot. It has a more documentary feel to it. This is why the video doesn’t look all that bad. In fact, it looks pretty good. Flesh tones are natural, DNR was not used in any intrusive manner, edge enhancement does creep in here and there, contrast levels do fluctuate here there, and black levels are very deep and inky, without much crush. It’s a solid transfer.

Audio 

 Chenobyl Diaries is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Okay, the film may sucked, but there is nothing sucky about this stellar lossless surround sound track. It rocks! Dialogue is exceptionally crisp and clear, subtle hints of dread creep there way into the surround channels, and the LFE gets a hearty workout. The level of depth is amazing and will knock your socks off. This borders on reference, but it does suffer during the high pitch screams of the women. Even lossless surround tracks have their faults when beautiful are being chased by mutants. 😉

Extras  

Chernobyl Diaries has some very superfluous special features that barely make any dent in the overall package We get a lame infomercial from Uri and his extreme tours business, a viral conspiracy video, a deleted scene, and an alternate ending. I thought the alternate ending should have been used instead of what was originally in the theatrical cut. I find it much more shocking than what we got. There’s a DVD and Ultraviolet digital copy included, as well. Meh.

  • Alternate Ending
  • Uri’s Extreme Tours Infomercial
  • Chernobyl Conspiracy Viral Video – Find out the real facts behind the Chernobyl tragedy.
  • Additional Scene


Summary

Chernobyl Diaries squeaks by and gets a 3-star. The above average video and excellent lossless track give it an edge, because it is dropped back on its head, with the lack of any extras worthy of a Blu-ray release. Chernobyl Diaries will appeal to horror fiends who are in the mood to watch anything horror related, good or bad. Personally, I thought it was weak and could have been 30 minutes longer – as it stands, it was a quick waste of time on my part to get through. For genre fans only; everyone else should avoid it.

 Order Chernobyl Diaries on Blu-ray!


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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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