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The River Review: "Pilot"
Oren Peli burst on to the screen at first with the hit Paranormal Activity, and now he is trying to scare us all through a different medium. Television. The premiere aired the pilot followed by the second episode of the series titled "Marbeley." The opening shows Emmett Cole (Bruce Greenwood), a famed explorer who went deep into the uncharted Amazon and went missing for over six months. He was declared dead, and his son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) had moved on as he gave a speech at his funeral. Lincoln is then seen at a bar and is approached by his mother, Tess (Leslie Hope), who tells Lincoln that Emmett's emergency beacon goes off. Lincoln reluctantly joins as the two of them and a film crew goes in search of Emmett in a sort of rescue mission documentary. Oren Peli clearly prefers the hand held camera formula as it does add tension and tends to make the viewer expect something much worse, making the anticipation the worst part of the experience.
When Lincoln and Tess finally get to the Amazon they run into some locals and most notably an old friend. The daughter of Emmet's main cameraman comes swooping in from a helicopter ride asking why she wasn't told about the beacon going off. The woman is Lena Landry (Eloise Mumford), and seems to have a history with Lincoln. They all set off for the lost ship that Emmet and her father were on. Lena also is revealed to have been the last person that Emmet contacted, and not much is known about that until the second part of the premiere. Lena explains to the crew that is in search of Emmet that he had crossed uncharted territory of the Amazon, to which one of the crew members said is haunted. However, she can't speak English, so they don't understand. How unfortunate for them. They eventually find the boat only to find it empty, but noises are heard within the ship. The noises are coming from the panic room that is sealed from the outside. The man that they hired for security, Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Kretschmann), is instructed to open. When it is finally opened, the crew hurries inside the room but are surprised to find nothing but a creepy altar and something hidden under a blanket. The following leads to a couple of freaky sequences that are very reminiscent of Paranormal Activity as whatever they let out is not exactly human. You never get a clear glimpse of it, but you know it isn't Casper the friendly ghost. Lincoln manages to trap the creature at the end of the episode, and confirms their believes that Emmet is indeed alive.
Lena finds tapes in Emmet's private quarters that she was instructed to destroy if he were to go missing. The crew looks them over and find some disturbing information on them, Emmet had gotten into some dark magic. For one he could hold fire in his hands, walk on water and so on. The second episode even begins with him possessing someone setting up a frightening but somewhat touching scene. The crew decides to use the tapes to narrow down where Emmet was last figuring that is their best lead. Lena explains when she last talked to him that he told her that on his thumb he had an infection, so they scour through the tapes looking to see where his thumb was in the worst condition. The eventually narrow it down, and from then on the episode really hits on many creepy sequences. The first is in a forest filled with dolls hanging by the trees or attached to them. In a sense the scene was kind of similar to that of The Blair Witch Project, but differed enough from it and was very creepy. In some ways, the episode was somewhat of a filler type as it just had the crew trying to find where Emmet had gone. The episode did end with a nice surprise involving Lena however.
For an opening, it was very good. It had the typical scares of Paranormal Activity, and if that isn't your cup of tea then of course you won't enjoy it. I have my doubts that the show can last in the shaky cam formula, but it for sure is a nice change of pace and is possibly one of the more frightening television experiences. The acting isn't spectacular, and Leslie Hope is out of her element and I frequently was very annoyed with her just screaming. Joe Anderson does a decent enough job as Lincoln and the others do a decent enough job in their roles. The first two episodes did enough to keep you interested and set up some interesting moments with the magic elements. For one the security guy that the crew hired seems to be in search of Emmet for different reasons, only to find out if he had reached "The Source" which is alluded to throughout the first two episodes. The other interesting moment came at the end of the second episode with Lena having a mystical symbol on the back of her neck. All in all, if you liked The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, you will find this to be a nice treat. If you don't like the shaky cam formula, then you probably will hate it.