This comes from Oren Peli and Michael R. Perry, the poople who brought you Paranormal Activity and I suppose if you liked that then there’s at least half a chance you’ll like this. Aerial Telly did not care much for Paranormal Activity, thinking it a vastly inferior knockoff of one of history’s greatest horrors The Blair Witch Project. The River takes up the recovered footage trope and runs with it before fumbling it, leading to a 78 yard breakaway and touchdown for the opposition. The basic premise isn’t so bad: world-famous TV naturalist Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) goes missing while exploring the Amazon River and six months down the pipe there’s still no sign of the fucker. “The magic is out there”: yes, that was his catchphrase, oft repeated on his shitty TV show watched by millions of shitty kids around the shitty world. But now it looks like he’s lost and gone forever. Then all of a sudden, and like we care, his emergency beacon goes off.
“Hispaniels daughturd talks to ghosts which will come in handy down the line when she is possessed by the spirit of Doctor Cole after swallowing an unconvincing CGI dragonfly.”
Awesomeness ensues. Widow/wife Tess (Leslie Hope) is quick to act, dragging reluctant son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) along to the Amazon on a mission to find Doctor Cole. With them is the good doctor’s ex-producer Clark Quietly (Paul Blackthorne), who films the mission; bodyguard securiturd Capt. Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Kretschmann) who looks like he can kill a man with two fingers; Lena Landry (Eloise Mumford), daughter of cameraman Russ Landry (missing along with Cole); Hispaniels boat mechanic Emilio Valenzuela (Daniel Zacapa) and his weird daughturd Jahel (Paulina Gaitan). Hispaniels daughturd talks to ghosts which will come in handy down the line when she is possessed by the spirit of Doctor Cole after swallowing an unconvincing CGI dragonfly.
“Footage of Cole sees him mixing with tribespeople, walking on water, creating fire with his hands, spazzing out in ooga booga ya ya rituals – it’s Heart of Darkness via Carlos Castaneda.”Upon finding The Magus, Cole’s boat, the first strange thing we notice is that they are being terrorised by an invisible spirit who sounds and acts quite a bit like Smoke Monster from Lost. There’s a lot of woo-woo primitive mysticism from the Hispaniels who explain that this is El Corpo Seco, a soul so bitter that the ground would not take him. That would be the Magic they keep referring to and recovered footage of Cole sees him mixing with tribespeople, walking on water, creating fire with his hands, spazzing out in ooga booga ya ya rituals – it’s Heart of Darkness via Carlos Castaneda.
It’s clear fairly early on that The River is a stupid annoying show that will never amount to anything other than a big pain in the balls that gets cancelled in its first season but what’s frustrating is that the horror when it occurs is pretty well directed even if never truly scary. I have no problem with the figurative journey of the soul and literal journey of The Magus parallel they draw but a series of naff ghost stories around a magical location where normal physics breaks down is so predictably embarrassingly Lost that they may as well just brand it the sequel and be done with it.
“There’s no Hurley, Sawyer, Locke or Benjamin – there’s not even an Ana Lucia. The River characters are so stock you could make a cunt casserole with them and only be dimly aware that they ever existed.”
ABC really are in mourning for their late lamented beast and they’re barely trying to disguise remaking it here – they even filmed it in Hawaii. The trouble is there’s no Hurley, Sawyer, Locke or Benjamin – there’s not even an Ana Lucia. The River characters are so stock you could make a cunt casserole with them and only be dimly aware that they ever existed.
Even if you bought Paranormal Activity as the revolutionary genre buster fantasists claim it was you should be aware that The River tackles the supernatural quite differently. “The magic is out there” is its mantra and that’s exactly as corny as it sounds. It’s not dark, untameable or evil; it’s a tricky problem to be overcome. It’s horror for all the family that works neither as a horror or a family show.
I see that fucking hack Spielberg’s paw prints on this – he’s credited as one of 900 executive producers and you can add The River to his awful TV CV alongside recent war crimes Appalling Skies and Terra Blowva. I don’t know what he does, I just know that he never helps and that anything with his stamp on has no option but to wither and die. He needs to knock it off.
The verdict on The River: Oh I wish I had a river less trite, predictable and doomed to failure than this.
Marks out of 10: 5
Imagined: Thursday 16 February 2012