Watched Jun 26, 2012
I admire Oren Peli for all that he's able to do with small budgets, but Chernobyl Diaries may have benefitted from a bit more money, which I rarely say. What's most disappointing about this one is that there was so much potential. Setting a horror film in Chernobyl - or, more specifically, Pripyat - is scary all by itself, and its that creative imagination that could've put this movie up there with The Descent in terms of scares. Instead, there a few shining moments of brilliance, but then a lot of (what felt like to me was) a director trying to cover up a low budget.
The movie can be summed up as something that has all the parts there, but they never fall together and reach their potential. The acting is acceptable, the story is plausible enough, and the location is spot-on. The editing, on the other hand, is a jumbled mess, and it is always done in a way to keep the "baddies" off-screen as much as possible. Also, if the actors would've said "fuck" a few times less, there's no doubt this would earn a "PG-13" from the (bullshit) MPAA. It is definitely not a hard "R" (no nudity, and very little gore, just some "naughty" language).
**The next paragraph contains some MINOR SPOILERS. You've been warned.**
The other element that upsets me is the misleading marketing. I thought this was going to be a supernatural horror film, which would've made for a better movie. Instead, the bad guys are real, have no motivation, and are never explained. I'll take supernatural over that generic nonsense any day.
I'm going in circles at this point, but the simple fact is that Chernobyl Diaries could've been a great horror film, and it just isn't. It doesn't even take enough chances to be considered mediocre. I mentioned at the top of this review that I admire what Oren Peli has been able to do on small budgets; what I left out is that I have yet to love anything he's created.