" /> 'The River': You'll need a nightlight - Metro.us

‘The River’: You’ll need a nightlight

From left: Joe Anderson, Eloise Mumford and Paul Blackthorne star in “The River,” premiering Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. on ABC.

A good scare is a hard thing to come by on primetime television series, which tend to steer clear of horror outside of dead bodies on a cop show. But when “Paranormal Activity” mastermind Oren Peli is at the helm, fear becomes the central plot.

The terror auteur makes his television debut with “The River,” a paranormal thriller that chronicles the search for nature show host Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood), who has disappeared in the Amazon. The rescue operation is spearheaded by Cole’s former costars — his wife (Leslie Hope) and son (Joe Anderson), who assemble a team that includes a film crew documenting the expedition. But the hunt for clues quickly leads to unexpected, unearthly finds — like angry spirits and terrifyingly evil baby dolls.

“We were all on the same page that the way we want to create the scares is not with gory images or anything that’s overly visual,” says Peli; the “we” he refers to includes producing partner Steven Spielberg, who convinced him to turn “The River” into a TV series rather than a film. “We want to create the kind of anxiety and tension that allows the audience to use their own imagination to fill in the blanks and kind of create their own worst-case nightmare scenario.”

The effect is artfully achieved by using “found” footage from the search party’s documentary crew as part of the series’ cinematography. Showrunner Zack Estrin finds the tactic so crucial to the heart of the show that he refers to it as “the use of the camera as a character.”

“When you’re watching the show, you aren’t just, you know, seeing people react,” Estrin says. “You’re actually having the filmmakers themselves react because those camera guys are getting scared just the same as everybody else, and I think it has a much bigger impression on the audience.”

Always on
How does using “found” footage to tell a story change an actor’s method? Well, for one, there’s no downtime.

“Because there are multiple cameras and those cameras can swing anywhere at any time, you have to be on your game 110 percent as opposed to 100 percent of the time,” says star Joe Anderson, who plays Dr. Emmet Cole’s son, Lincoln. “You never know when you’re going to be filmed. There’s sometimes a little window that you know the camera is going to pass over you and you have to give something specific within that window. It’s freeing and challenging at the same time.”

About Mr. Spielberg …
Getting a television series, Oren Peli says, was as simple as meeting with Steven Spielberg. Which, of course, wasn’t very simple at all.

“It actually started with an idea that I had for a movie, which was much more simple than the way ‘The River’ has evolved,” Peli says. “It was just going to be about a documentary crew that has gone missing in the rainforest and filming the rescue mission to find them. I developed this idea with a couple of my producing partners, and we just put it aside and went on to produce other films. Then I had a meeting with Steven Spielberg, and he told me, ‘Hey, we should do a TV show together,’ and I’m thinking, ‘OK. Sure, whatever you say.’”

At that point, Peli admits, “I was barely figuring out the world of movies. I had no idea about anything with TV, and I tried to come up with some cool idea for a TV show.” He turned his focus back to films, and ended up chatting with the writer of “Paranormal Activity 2” about ideas that never came to fruition.  

“I was telling him about this idea for the missing rainforest expedition, and he goes crazy for this,” Peli remembers, “like, ‘Why waste it on one movie? You can turn it into a whole TV show, and every episode they get into another adventure.’ And then we came up with the idea of making it on the boat on the river and pitched it to DreamWorks, and they loved it.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

'Five Star': A coming-of-age story about Brooklyn's gang…

'Five Star' tells a coming-of-age story about Brooklyn's gang culture at the Tribeca Film Festival.

National

New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for…

By David DeKokHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach"…

Local

NYPD detective shoots partner: DA

A New York City Police detective was arrested early Thursday and charged with driving under the influence while on the clock.

Local

Judge strikes down NY limits on donations to…

A federal judge on Thursday reluctantly struck down New York's limits on donations to independent political action committees as unconstitutional, potentially ushering in a new…

Music

Championship of Collegiate a Cappella: Students who are…

Tickets to this Saturday’s International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella reportedly sold out within 11 hours of going on sale.

Music

M.I.A. talks 'Matangi,' divinity, spontaneity and holograms

"There’s pressure for me to become a theatrical production like 'Glee,' or something" says M.I.A., "It’s like, 'the pressure’s on, bitches.'"

Movies

Tribeca: 'Goodbye to All That' star Paul Schneider…

Paul Schneider talks about his new film "Goodbye to All That," not acting too much and how he'd rather indulge in simple pleasures than play the scene.

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

NHL

Rangers unlikely to change lineup, Steve Mason in…

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault wouldn't say much, but don't expect any lineup changes.

NBA

Jason Collins named to Time's 100 Most Influential…

Jason Collins was named to the list after coming out as the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game.

NBA

Nets excited for Brooklyn fans to bring the…

Kevin Garnett has definitely used profanity while trash talking or in practices, but never to describe an entire borough.

NHL

Rangers turn up shot blocking in Game 3…

Game 3 of the Rangers-Flyers opneing round series was not a return to John Tortorella hockey.

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.

Style

MAC & Proenza Schouler collection unveiled

MAC Cosmetics is releasing a new collection with Proenza Schouler.