The River is the concerted effort of Oren Peli, of Paranormal Activity fame, and Steven Spielberg (amongst others of course), who made his own foray into spooky territory with Poltergeist. A film which Peli later paid homage to with James Wan with Insidious, which I have to admit, had some interesting moments, ideas, and a couple of good scares, but overall, I found it mostly a let-down.
Having seen the trailer for this series a while ago, I was on the fence about it, though it does have a number of cast members whose work I enjoy. So when Sue and I were invited to attend a premiere screening of the first two episodes put on by CTV and attended by Oren Peli, we figured let’s see how it plays out.
The premise is actually a really good idea. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) is the beloved host of a nature/exploration show along with his young son, and wife, Tess (played by Leslie Hope). The show is a huge success, and runs for years, until Cole leaves his family behind and with his crew aboard the show’s ship the Magus head up the Amazon…
Six months later, Cole’s personal tracking beacon is activated. The show’s producers are willing to foot the bill of an expedition to find him, IF his wife, and now grown-up, estranged son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) both go on the journey, and film everything.
So begins a journey into the dark heart of the Amazon, telling the tale through multiple cameras about the boat as well as a couple of wandering cameramen.
Joined by Cole’s lead cameraman’s daughter Lena (Eloise Mumford) they track down the beacon, which presents an as yet unresolved mystery of its own, and eventually the Magus. That has something trapped aboard her.
As one can expect with Peli’s name to it, the supernatural rears its head fairly quickly, and spooky, and violent things start to happen as someTHING begins to hunt them.
My big issue with the idea, and Sue and I have already spoken about it, is how quickly everyone seems to agree that something unnatural is going on. No one even tries to offer a rational explanation or offer more than a passing dose of skepticism.
For the most part, I found the first episode workable, but a little shaky, and I don’t mean the camera work, though that happens of course.
I do like the hints of secrets kept from characters, the idea that something bigger is going on, and the mention by Cole’s character, through re-discovered tapes he made on his journey about something called The Source.
The second episode moves better, and starts to build on the characters right away, as well as creating more mythology for the show. This one had an actual disturbing moment for me, involving a monkey and a tree.
Sue and I patted ourselves on the back for noticing things in reflections that did not match up with what we were seeing in the foreground (like in the trailer for Paranormal Activity 2).
Am I completely won over by this series?
Not yet. I’m a little worried it may simply devolve into a ghost-of-the-week-story as it moves us along to rediscover Cole.
Peli, last night, said that no, it’s not all like that, though they do dwell with a lot of the legends of local tribes around the Amazon to tell their stories, and unlike another show that aired not so long ago in the distant past, he does promise that there will be answers.
Still, since the series only has 8 episodes altogether, and I’ve already seen two, I think I will give him the benefit of the doubt and tune in.
I will say this, I do like the entire cast, there doesn’t seem to be a bad casting choice in the lot.
So, yes, I will be boarding the resurrected Magus for at least a little while and following this crew on a trip into darkness…
“There’s magic out there…”