Oren Peli, who started the “Paranormal” series of faux vérité video-style horror films set in suburban U.S., sets his latest scary story in the Ukraine. “My friends are morons,” narrates one of several American tourists as “Chernobyl Diaries” opens with them shooting videos of themselves. The foursome pile in a van with two European tourists for an “extreme tourism” foray into Pripyat, the abandoned city where workers at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor lived until the 1986 disaster created a radioactive wasteland. Their guide Uri carries a Geiger counter. A crazed bear charging through a vacant housing complex and fierce stray dogs down the road add a brush with local color. Time to go. Except their van has been vandalized. How to get out? Suffice it to say that is a begged question in this generic shock ride. Brad Parker directs a screenplay by co-producer Peli and the brothers Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke. If you want to build a backstory of whatever is out there, good luck. The checkpoint guards said the area was “closed for maintenance” so Uri took an off-road detour. “Nature has reclaimed its rightful home,” he states. A freaked-out expat from Kiev only has time to sputter “urban legend” and no more. Men in medical garb speak in Russian of “patients” who got out. The last tourist standing cannot read the subtitle: “She’s seen them.” So have we, in terrifying glimpses. “Chernobyl Diaries” does not insert an elderly villager in the contaminated zone telling the camera, “Thanks for visiting us,” as did the 2009 documentary short “Into the Zone,” where Swiss filmmaker Raphael Bondy followed five European tourists into the real Chernobyl that Peli and Parker recreate in Serbia. If only “Chernobyl Diaries” could work with the irony Austrian filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter extracted in his 1999 documentary “Pripyat”: a heroic socialist realist billboard exhorting: “Scientists! Guarantee the implementation of theoretical methods for the renewal of Chernobyl’s earth.” With Devin Kelley, Jonathan Sadowski, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips, Dimitri Diatchenko. 86m. (Bill Stamets)
“Chernobyl Diaries” is reaching half-life now.