Friday, February 17, 2012

Are You Watching The River?

If not, you should be.

ABC's new midseason replacement, "The River," first came across my radar when a friend of mine saw an advance of the first two episodes and said he hadn't been so drawn in by a show since Lost ended (and this is a guy who works in television, so he watches a LOT of it). So, of course, I was intrigued.

And boy, was he right.

Three episodes have now aired, and it's the story of a man named Emmet Cole, an explorer whose TV show, The Undiscovered Country (snicker) has been airing on TV for the past couple of decades, and all of America has watched him explore nature all over the world, with his lovely wife and adorable son by his side.

But now, the son has grown up and has become hostile to a father who put his family on display for so long and then abandoned them when he continued the show on his own; the wife has found solace with another but still pines for her husband; and Emmet, in a last trip up the Amazon, has gone missing and is presumed dead. And so, the network has decided to pay the wife handsomely if she can convince her son to take their film crew deep into the Amazon and film, documentary-style, a reluctant widow and her angry son as they search for a man who most of the world thinks is dead.

The result is absolutely stunning, edge-of-your-seat television. For the Amazon is full of the supernatural, magic, voodoo, curses, and things that go bump in the night.

In the first episode they actually find Emmet's boat, The Magus, and a sealed room in the bottom of it, which they weld open, thinking they can hear him pounding the walls inside. He's not in there, but something pretty nasty (that Emmet had presumably trapped in there for good reason) is. In the second episode, you will feel the hairs on your arm stand up as they come across one of the CREEPIEST things I've ever seen on television. Remember back in the pilot of Lost when fans coined the online phrase WTFPOLARBEAR?! That is NOTHING compare to the WTFDOLLTREE you will see.

A frickin'... DOLL. TREE. Like, little dolls with blackened eyes and little dirty bodies just hanging from a bamboo tree (from the second episode on the show was filmed in Hawaii). That MOVE of their own volition like little lost souls waiting for someone to haunt. And haunt they do. Go here to see a quick gif of the doll moving in the tree.

And in the third episode... yeesh. I remember my dad showing me the Audrey Hepburn film, Wait Until Dark, where she plays a blind woman whose apartment is broken into by Alan Arkin, and he quickly surmises she can't see anything and sneaks around the apartment, looming over her while she is unaware he is there. It was terrifying, and he told me that when it first came out, people were passing out in the theatres because of the suspense. Well, now imagine everyone on a boat going blind from some curse and these hoodoo undead people with no eyes boarding the boat and walking around silently. Geeeaaaaahhhh... (Although THAT actually wasn't nearly as jump-out-of-your-skin as the earlier scene in the episode, where they are hiding from these creepy voodoo guys in the bush and all these GIGANTIC millepedes come out and begin running over their arms, legs, torsos, and faces. I was FREAKING. OUT.)

The entire show is filmed documentary style, and unlike The Office or Modern Family, it's actually realistic. Two cameramen walk around with cameras. The people in the show wear small cameras mounted on their arms. When they go deep into the jungle one of the cameramen brings small cameras that he mounts in trees and in bushes to capture everything if they stop overnight. (That's how we see the little doll's head turning to listen; from one of the mounted cameras.) Presumably the producer will be reviewing the tapes later when they get back, but every little thing is captured, often things only we can see and the characters can't, which heightens the suspense and horror.

Leslie Hope plays the mother. I last remember her as Jack Bauer's wife, being blown away in the S1 finale, and she's great in this. Bruce Greenwood, a big star in Canada, plays Emmet, a rather small role given that he's billed as the star of the show, but you only see him in flashback "film footage" of his show from years ago. Joe Anderson plays Lincoln. I remember him from Across the Universe and playing Peter Hook in Control (the film about Joy Division), and he was great in both. He puts on an American accent in this one, and you can tell he's putting one on (his language is very carefully spoken and his r's are a little too harsh) but he does a fantastic job. He's joined by Eloise Mumford, who plays Lena, his childhood friend and the daughter of his dad's cameraman, who has gone missing along with Emmet. She is the last person Emmet was in contact with (and why he contacted her instead of the others is a mystery that's been building).

They're joined by the producer, two (oops, make that one) cameramen, the ship's mechanic and his Spanish-only-speaking daughter, and a creepy bodyguard/security guy (Thomas Kretschmann, who is absolutely fantastic) who seems to have ulterior motives for being there.

Is Emmet alive? Has he just Kurtzed all of them and gone up the river to go native? Or is he dead? Either way, the journey these people are taking isn't just a physical one -- with each step, they're discovering more about themselves, their relationship with those around them, and the "magic" of Emmet Cole's show.

The River airs on Tuesday nights, and will only be 8 episodes long (unless they sign up a second season). Definitely check it out; it's amazing.


KathyT said...

I LOVE this show!!!! It's so creepy. sometimes, you need a good creep, ya know?

Some paranormal travel show that my sister watches, showed that the doll tree is a real thing. Somewhere down in Mexico google "destination truth + doll tree" and you'll find more creep.
um shudder!

ELRambo said...

I have to DVR this show & watch in in full daylight--it's that spooky.

HanSolo2469 said...

This show has been great so far. It’s keeping my attention, and that’s a hard thing to do for a show that is on prime time on one of the major networks. My wife and I have caught all three of the first episodes, making sure that they get recorded on our DVR. Since they were filmed in Hawaii, it’s not only scary but beautiful as well. My wife was mentioning that when they had to find the tree that would heal their eyes last week, about how beautiful it was down there. It looks great with my DISH HD, and it’s just another bonus of my having HD Free for Life. A few coworkers at DISH told me about this show just barely the day before it was set to premier, I’m so glad that they did.

The Question Mark said...


After reading this post, I decided to check the River out on demand. I only got to see the 2-hour pilot so far (the third episode isn't up yet), but HOLY SHIT, was that scary!

The sound made by the ghost girl after she grabbed Tess was the scariest noise that has ever graced my ears, period.

I'm liking this very much. i don't think I've ever seen a TV show that actually frightened me (besides a handful of LOST episodes, of course, and maybe one or two Supernaturals) so this is looking to be a great new find. Too bad it's only eight episodes long!

The Question Mark said...

@KATHY T: What's the name of the paranormal show your sister watches? I'd like to check that out.

Fred said...

The River is the modern version of the haunted house, and, since we are now living in an eco-changing moment, how appropriate the lost Emmet Cole embodies Kurtz and all those nature personalities we see on the higher tv channels.

There is some trouble how we are seeing the Other (natives of the Amazon), but then this is a haunter house/jungle tale where everyone in it is an Other. The most Other, so far, is Emmet Cole himself, who takes his identity from the name of his boat, The Magus. Cole's enthusiasm seems to be a cross between Steve Irwin and Timothy Leary, and even the shows imitate Irwin's television show.

I am glad there is only 8 shows per this season, as it might begin to wear a little. Keeping it compact like this will only help with the show's unity and tone, and not overdo the effects for the sake of just another episode. In so many ways, this show is not Lost, as at present its more effect than deeper issues. But the potential is there, and I am hoping Spielberg and company manage to explore such terrain in the new season.

And alone with everyone here who thinks being scared is such fun, I'm with you on that. Pass the popcorn.

KathyT said...

Question Mark, the show is called Destination Truth.
I heard its coming back for more season.
it runs on the US SyFy network. but she's seen it here in Canada for yrs, so you might have to hunt.

The Question Mark said...

Thank you! I love that stuff! I'll definitely watch it!

Anonymous said...

I wish I could share all your enthusiasm for The River but I'm squarely on the fence about it. I haven't found it scary (and the first two Paranormal Activity movies freaked me out) and the second week left me kind of flat. We just apologized to the natives and they left us alone!

And the cmerman stumbled into finding the magic roots we needed (sigh).

I'm still in though (for now).

-Tim Alan

Christina B said...

I LOVE spooky. I thought I'd found a great spooky show in American Horror Story...but then it got un-spooky and more weird.

The River is SPOOKY! I'm seriously loving this show!