Between Paranormal Activity and Chernobyl Diaries, co-writer and producer Oren Peli is making quite a career out of creating scares while never really showing much of anything. Much like his prior creation, this one, directed by first timer Brad Parker, seems to do everything it can to keep from really showing you anything related to the actual threat. In a way it is a bit of a cheat, a way to avoid showing any gore. Still, there is something to be said about the fear of the unseen creatures lurking in the dark waiting to grab us at unsuspecting moments. There is that and the fact that it isn't ghosts this time out.
Chernobyl Diaries starts off like a found footage movie, but turns out to be a bit more traditional than that. The style used in the early going is just a tease as we follow a group of four friends as they travel through some European cities on their way to Russia. After the character introductions, the movie transitions away from the video recorders and into a more standard narrative, although the handheld camera style remains throughout, as if there is an unseen friend running around to document everything, but never acknowledged by anyone.
Our intrepid group is made up of Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), who recently moved to Russia, his brother, Chris (weak link Jesse McCartney), along with Chris's girlfriend and her recently single friend (Olivia Dudley and Devin Kelley). Initially planning on going to Moscow, they forego the tourist trap for a something a little more exotic. Paul suggests they take a tour to Pripyat, the town next to the Chernobyl reactors where the workers and their families lived. Everyone was forced to leave so fast that everything was left behind and is still there. Now, 25 years after the disaster, it is possible to tour the area, this is not a movie creation; you really can book tours of the radioactive location.