Wednesday, February 8, 2012

TV Review: "The River"

This week's other highly anticipated new series is ABC's "The River," another show produced by Steven Spielberg but created by Oren Peli, who wrote and directed the disappointingly boring Horror movie, Paranormal Activity.

"The River" tells the story of adventurer and naturalist Emmet Cole (Star Trek's Bruce Greenwood) who has been missing in the Amazon for 6 months. When his locator beacon is suddenly activated, his wife Tess (Leslie Hope from "24"), reluctant son Lincoln (The Crazies' Joe Anderson) and producer Clark (Paul Blackthorne, another "24" alum) go searching for him. Clark makes sure the search is recorded for a possible series and brings along a slew of cameras and two cameramen to record everything. Also along are Emmet's former engineer and his daughter (who may have a "gift") and their boat's captain played by Thomas Kretschmann (who played Captain Englehorn in Peter Jackson's King Kong). They are soon joined by Lincoln's childhood friend Lena ("Lone Star" alum Eloise Mumford), the daughter of Emmet's cameraman who disappeared along with Emmet.

Like Paranormal Activity, "The River" is presented in a found footage format, though it seemed to me that there were far too many cameras in far too many impractical places to be actual 'documentary' footage. And while the concept for the show is certainly intriguing, the story is far too silly for its own good. Discovering Emmet's ship abandoned in an uncharted part of the Amazon, the team soon finds a mysterious being welded into the ship's panic room. Once released, it hungers for blood and the engineer's daughter Jahel (Mexican actress Paulina Gaitan) explains that it is a "dry spirit," the soul of someone too evil to remain buried. What? 

Shaky cameras, nighttime shoots and jungle locations make it hard to see anything that's happening and while not seeing something can be far scarier than actually seeing it, "The River" just ends up being annoying. The premiere's second hour wasn't much better, though it had a very truly creepy moments involving a tree filled with dolls (obviously inspired by this true story) and the swallowing of a dragonfly that possessed Jahel.

The performances here are all fine, I suppose - at least everyone manages to keep a straight face. And unlike Paranormal..., the show wastes no time getting to the creepy stuff. Sadly, the creepy stuff is just as silly as it was in Peli's first movie. I'll stick with AMC's "The Walking Dead" and FX's "American Horror Story" for my TV Horror fixes. Someone please let me know when a network Horror show turns up as good as these cable gems. * (One Star Out of Four).

Thank goodness "The Walking Dead" comes back this Sunday.

More, anon.

1 comment:

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

It was the Blair Witch Project crossed with Lost. Complete with dolls hanging from trees, gravestones in the middle of nowhere, running around in the dark, losing someone in the dark...all of that shit was in Blair Witch.