Saturday, February 11, 2012

The River

Everyone's been trying to be the next LOST since it went off the air. The LOST gap has brought a lot of contenders, mostly people just making shows that are weird and mysterious but ultimately make no sense.

The latest contender is "The River", a found footage series about a TV crew looking for a missing explorer. I thought the idea of doing a found footage TV series was neat, but the concept is so poorly executed here that they shouldn't have even bothered. On a boat where hardly anything is working they seem have hi-def cameras and pitch perfect audio all over the place. It never has that claustrophobic POV that makes this format work, but it does have a lot of the requisite scenes of professional cameramen running around shaking their cameras for no reason. The cinematography is mostly straightforward, punctuated occasionally with shots  borrowed from every other POV movie ever made.

It seems weird to call something amateurish for its inability to mimic amateur filmmaking, but it's so badly done that it manages not to work on multiple levels. They fuzzy up the footage with bad filters when they should have just used lower quality cameras or shot in the same style at least. It would have worked to just use a reality TV crew and shoot that way, but they insist on blocking and filming it like any other show. They incorporate the classic elements like subtitling dialogue during tense moments, but since they insist on perfect sound design it doesn't make sense because you can always hear exactly what everyone is saying.

It's usually more effective to cast unknowns in a found footage production so that the concept is more credible, but this show's populated with familiar faces. They also sidestep the POV concept when they want to show something cool (like a sweeping pull away wide shot of the entire jungle or ghost images of Bruce Greenwood as he possesses one of the other characters).

The story is fun, but it doesn't really work either. They eventually come across the original tapes, but they never seem that interested in them when you'd think that would be the first thing they'd want to see when they find the boat.

Then they release some kind of ghost/demon/animal/guy from a magic rock that is supposedly going to hunt them but mostly just stays in the bushes rattling branches creepily. Then there's a business with dolls and magic and the POV almost completely disappears. It's a shame because they're pretty good at putting together creepy shots, but they're never consistent with the POV style of the show.

The weirdness of the show is the basis of its appeal, but I see it being mildly interesting but getting dumber and dumber as the series progresses. The fundamental concept of the show already doesn't work, so it can only be an item of interest at this point. The story doesn't really matter, but that's pretty typical these days.

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