TV review: The River

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From the February 2, 2012 edition

From “Paranormal Activity” producers/writers (Oren Peli, Michael R. Perry), “The River” uses the docu-horror style of the popular movie series, but the TV show is actually good.

I find the “Paranormal Activity” movies boring — they’re a retread of “The Blair Witch Project” methodology and just aren’t very scary or interesting — but I am pretty captivated by “The River.” It’s not frighteningly scary, but it does offer a creepy atmosphere and an effectively mysterious premise.

Six months after TV personality/wildlife adventurer Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) and his ship disappear in the Amazon, a signal from Cole’s emergency beacon goes off, and his wife Tess (Leslie Hope) and son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) put together a rescue mission.

Rounding out the rescue party is security personnel, a camera crew (including Cole’s smarmy ex-producer), Cole’s former ship engineer and his daughter, and Lena (Eloise Mumford), Lincoln’s childhood friend whose father also went missing.

The two-hour premiere offers plenty of bizarre happenings (spoiler alert: creepy dolls!) and freaky mysticism, not to mention some pretty good character development.

The structure — with a monster of the week and clues about Dr. Cole’s mysterious disappearance that are slowly unveiled — is reminiscent of “The X-Files” mythology, minus the aliens. The character stuff feels like “Lost”-lite, complete with flashbacks, but it’s pretty good.

I’m not all-in on the found footage angle, and the story might be better served by a miniseries, but the mystery and characters are good enough to keep me watching for a while.