If fright floats your boat, take this 8-episode trip
431words Arrived: 07 February 2012 04:25 AM
Published: 07 February 2012
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Even shallow waters can provide an entertaining ride.
ABC, tonight, 9 ET/PT
If you're looking for depth or common sense, look away from The River, a lost-in-the-Amazon spook show that is, intellectually speaking, closer to Lost in Space than Lost. If, however, you're in the mood for a weekly dose of first-rate and practically gore-free frights -- the kind that may give you nightmares, but won't turn your stomach or cause your children to ask you embarrassing American Horror-style questions about sexual perversions -- this is the trip for you.
As a bonus, it's only an eight-episode commitment, kicked off by tonight's two-episode premiere. So while the show may not give you many answers to its supernatural mysteries, it also won't string you along for long.
The premise is simplicity itself: When beloved TV adventurer Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) vanishes in the Amazon, a search is launched by his wife (Leslie Hope), his son (Joe Anderson) and members of his show's crew, who are filming the expedition for television. Emmet spent his career telling viewers there was "magic out there" in the natural world; his rescuers are about to discover that he meant it literally.
The stories so far are fairly standard -- a lot of angry spirits who are made even angrier by the searchers bumbling into forbidden territory. (These people really need to get on a faster learning curve.) What sets this show apart is the way it uses its film crew to tell the story, with cameras catching everything and yet, most often, catching only fleeting glimpses of spirits flashing past.
The visual approach will remind some viewers of Paranormal Activity, and with good reason: The show was co-created by Activity's Oren Peli. Things are more imagined than seen, and the best frights are the most subtle: a blind woman hiding behind a locked door, a close-up of a child's old doll.
One man's chiller is another man's comedy, and there are moments when The River, with its curse-around-every-corner setup, threatens to topple over into farce. But a strong cast and that things-that- go-bump-in-the-night shooting style so far keep the show on course. Whether it can sustain those chills over the long run is an open question, but for an eight-week voyage, it's a fine, different diversion.