Friday, February 24, 2012

"THE RIVER" (General Review)

The River logo

One of this season's best TV series has to be "The River". Created by Oren Peli, the Director/Creator of "Paranormal Activity", and Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, "The River" is a "found footage" series about an explorer/TV show host who goes missing while looking for "magic" in the uncharted regions of the Amazon River and the efforts of his family and a documentary crew to find him and tape a season or two of the show while doing it.

Each episode unfolds like a mix between "LOST" and "Paranormal Activity", meaning that part of the episode is setup through flashbacks (cleverly done through found footage, for consistency) that foretell either the theme of the episode or the way in which the crew will solve the episode's mystery. The other part is the mystery itself; again, seen by the viewer as found footage much like in "Paranormal Activity" and its progeny.

Yes, every episode has a new mystery/legend/curse/whatever you want to call it. Latin American and Brazilian lore is expertly mined to bring fresh, unknown scary stories to an American audience desperately in need of fresh material. It definitely works. 

My only gripe with "The River" comes from the acting and casting. Bruce Greenwood as Dr. Emmet Cole, is fantastic as always, although being the "MacGuffin" rather than the lead actor is a bit of a letdown, as we don't see as much of him as we should.

Lincoln Cole, Dr. Emmet's son, portrayed by Joe Anderson, and effectively the show's main character, was sadly, a terrible casting choice. Anderson, born and raised in England, has immense trouble hiding his British accent, resulting in pure unintentional comedy as you wonder if the American Lincoln Cole is being possessed by a British entity. In a show where voice-altering possession is the norm, it was probably not wise to cast a Englishman who cannot produce a consistent American accent.

Not to pile on the character of Lincoln Cole, but his look is way too disheveled and homely to be the son of a celebrity and a Doctor himself, unless he was a huge fan of Kurt Cobain growing up . . .

                                   Anderson Cobain

The rest of the cast is generic, at least after 4 episodes, with the exception of Paulina Gaitan, as Jahel Valenzuela, who shines even while speaking Spanish only, and whose eyes are decidedly creepy.

I have no idea why more people are not watching this show. "The River" is a perfect blend of procedural (monster of the week) with mythological. Furthermore, it is creepy, yet in a classy way: not overly gory and doesn't rely on many jump scares, but rather draws you in with Latin american and Brazilian lore and hooks you with on-camera scares that develop slowly and only you, the viewer, can see them. I did not think a found footage series could work, yet The River has proven me wrong.

Americans love garbage reality television and generic, manatee produced comedies and police procedurals, yet never tune in for quality serialized dramas. Will the American audience finally tune in to "The River", and prove me wrong as well?

Pilot Review Score: 8.75/10

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