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This month marked the premiere of ABC's new show The River, from the mind of Oren Peli, the creator of Paranormal Activity. Starring Bruce Greenwood, Joe Anderson, Leslie Hope and Eloise Mumford, the series airs on Tuesdays at 9.
If you have followed the Paranormal movies, then you'll be able to weed out a lot of the nuances from that trilogy: found footage, mockumentaries, time lapse, etc. That's probably my only bone to pick with the show. Some of the thrills are recycled and unoriginal, and serve to ignite the plot a little, however they don't substract from the experience whatsoever. If you were a fan of Lost (like me, who misses the hell out of that show), then you will definitely fall right into step with River.
Following the disappearance of explorer Emmet Cole (Greenwood), his son Lincoln (Anderson) and wife Tess (Hope) set out on an expedition to find him once his rescue beacon flicks on six months after he is pronounced dead. Allowing producer Clark (Paul Blackthorne) to film the rescue as a documentary, the group receives funding and sets out to find Emmet.
As usual, it's very difficult to give a full-fledged review without dropping any spoilers so I'll do my best to be cryptic and concise. This show parallels Lost with its large cast and trekking through wilderness, as well as Paranormal Activity with creepy, off-screen noises and voices. That's River's strength: building up tension to a boiling point. The acting is pretty solid and convincing, I only dislike Lena (Mumford) but she's a total smoke so I let it slide. We follow the characters in real time as the cameramen film their discoveries, allowing us to learn what they know at an even pace. Although having purposely bleeped swears is somewhat corny, it adds to the realism of "oh snap there's a fuggin' black smoke monster chasing us and I'm messing in my pants." Everyone appears truly frightened by what's going on and it makes it all the more creepy for us as the audience. Kind of reminds me of Blair Witch Project, except with a way bigger budget.
All in all this show has lots of potential, but it can legit go either way: better or worse. I can see how the formula could get boring, but we're only two episodes in. I had the same exact feelings on Lost after watching the pilot episode, and that turned out to be one of my favorite shows ever. Hopefully, The River continues to impress. Stay tuned for weekly reviews!
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