Sunday, February 12, 2012

River of Mediocrity

I've finally watched the first two episodes of The River, a new television horror-drama crafted in the currently trendy found footage style. I was really hoping this would be good, because the premise is pretty compelling; the patriarch of a popular nature show, The Undiscovered Country, goes missing under mysterious circumstances, and his family  and a reality TV show crew search for him on the Amazon river.

Unfortunately, the show is utterly predictable. Characters and their relationships are purely by-the-numbers: a son who feels abandoned by his famous father, a wife haunted by guilt over an affair, a tough-as-nails mercenary, slimy television producer, comic-relief cameraman, simple-but-clever Mexican mechanic, his plucky daughter, and on and on. There are horrors in the jungle, but they're never quite captured on film. This is supposed to be suspenseful, but it merely winds up making the cinematographers look utterly incompetent. There are even creepy dolls in the second episode.

The show's only saving grace is Bruce Greenwood, who plays the missing scientist. He appears exclusively in archival footage of The Undiscovered Country and a stash of videotapes discovered by his family. But one actor, no matter how appealing, can't save a show from hackneyed scripts and incompetent direction. The River is mustn't-see TV.

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