Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray Review

Cameron Yee

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May 9, 2002
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Cameron Yee
With few satisfying payoffs, “Chernobyl Diaries” generates a middling variety of fallout. The film’s high definition presentation is decent, though the same can’t be said for its perfunctory set of bonus material.






Chernobyl Diaries


Release Date: October 16, 2012
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Blu-ray EcoBox with slipcover
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Running Time: 1:25:53
MSRP: $35.99







THE FEATURE

SPECIAL FEATURES



Video

AVC: 1080p high definition 1.85:1

High definition



Audio

DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, Spanish 5.1, German 5.1

Various



Subtitles

English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH

Various





The Feature: 2/5


A European vacation goes awry when a group of travelers – Chris (Jesse McCartney), Natalie (Olivia Dudley) and Amanda (Devin Kelley) – swing by Kiev to visit Chris’s less sensible brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski). To liven up their visit Paul books them on a guided tour of Prypiat, the now-abandoned town neighboring the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster zone. Despite being turned away by officers at the primary checkpoint into the area, the tour’s determined guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) takes them through a back entrance. During their two-hour visit, the travelers get their money’s worth as they explore a ghost town largely reclaimed by the environment. However when the group readies to leave, they find their vehicle incapacitated, stranding them overnight with no provisions or anyone to help them. As night falls, it becomes clear it's not just the natural world that has overrun the town, but the decidedly unnatural as well.



Conceived and co-written by Oren Peli, the man behind the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, “Chernobyl Diaries” starts off with an interesting premise, though one easily surmised given the story’s radioactive setting. It’s a foregone conclusion most of the cast will be fodder for whatever contaminated horrors dwell in Prypiat, but rather than cut to that chase, the film spends much of its time in an ineffective bid for suspense and creepiness. It’s successful in only a few moments, mainly when there’s an actual thing sharing the frame with the characters (e.g. little girls with their backs turned – what part of our reptile brain is that triggering?). Otherwise it’s an endless amount of the cast reacting to stuff, and there’s only so much one can take of that rather one-sided perspective before attention drifts to the characters’ inane, plot-driven choices. Needless to say, when the audience starts dissecting character motivations in the middle of a horror film, said film is as good as dead.


Video Quality: 4/5


Presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer approximates the 1.85:1 aspect ratio by filling the 16:9 display. With its strong, inky blacks and satisfying contrast levels - even in some of the more dimly lit environments – there’s a lot to like about the picture. However the drab and earthy palette doesn’t provide much in the way of color, and overall sharpness is only fair. The image is pristine though, devoid of any major artifacts from digital noise reduction or sharpening measures.


Audio Quality: 3.5/5


Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently clear and intelligible, though there’s not much breadth in the staging. Surround channels perk up for some atmospheric and directional effects, but are fairly restrained for the genre. LFE is similarly limited, showing up in only a few key scenes, though the track exhibits decent depth and fullness overall.


Special Features: 2/5


Uri’s Extreme Tours Infomercial (1:19, HD): The tour guide makes a pitch for his services.



Chernobyl Conspiracy Viral Video (2:25, HD): The dramatized multimedia presentation provides a brief history of the Chernobyl disaster, and establishes the premise behind the film. There’s no doubt the concept has potential, showing the film ultimately faltered in its execution.



Deleted Scene – “Welcome to Kiev” (:48, HD): The travelers make a toast prior to their adventures.



Alternate Ending (1:50, HD): The fate of one of the characters goes in a different direction, though perhaps not as effectively.



Ultraviolet Digital Copy: Offer expires October 16, 2014.



DVD: The feature is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic video; Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in English, French and Spanish; subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish; and bonus material of the “Chernobyl Conspiracy Viral Video” and the “Welcome to Kiev” deleted scene.


Recap


The Film: 2/5


Video Quality: 4/5


Audio Quality: 3.5/5


Special Features: 2/5


Overall Score (not an average): 2/5



“Chernobyl Diaries” proves nothing is worse than a horror movie without much to scream about. While Warner Home Video has given the film a decent high definition presentation, the meager attention given to the special features is fitting given the title’s ultimately limited effectiveness and appeal.
 

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