ABC is jumping on the found footage bandwagon with “The River,” a paranormal serial thriller from Oren Peli, mastermind behind one of the most lucrative film franchises in the found footage medium, the “Paranormal Activity” series.
The brand new preview (above) starts in a most predictable way: A famous TV explorer Emmett Cole (Bruce Greenwood) ventures deep into the Amazon basin, where something attacks him, he screams a lot, the camera shakes a lot, and then the image goes black. Six months later, Cole’s wife (Leslie Hope) and son (Joe Anderson) set out to find him, along with Cole’s sneaky producer (Paul Blackthorne), who will — naturally — film the increasingly dangerous trip.
There are some very “Lost”-like moments in the 2-minute clip, in addition to the requisite chills seen in other found footage sagas (“Blair Witch Project,” with its three hapless would-be adventurers heading into the haunted woods, comes to mind). It all looks entertaining enough, and slightly spooky, but what does it have to show us that we haven’t already seen a dozen times by now?
“Found footage” is, of course, a loose term. In “The River,” for example, the conceit of a home video camera capturing all of this action is less believable than in, say, the first “Paranormal Activity” (the last scene in the preview seems to be covered by a half-dozen camera angles). Likewise, seeing so many familiar faces (Greenwood, Hope, Thomas Kretschmann, Eloise Mumford) takes away from the idea of these characters just regular people caught up in extraordinary circumstances.
“The River” premieres February 7 at 9/8 central on ABC, and will run for 8 episodes in the first season.
What do you think of the preview? Grade it at the top of the story.