One of the most talked about mid-season series will be premiering tomorrow night and it’s Oren Peli’s found footage documentary style horror show called ‘The River.’ Peli created the show and with Steven Spielberg producing the project, it promises to be something worth watching. Not too long ago, Peli (who also wrote and produced the ‘Paranormal Activity’ movies) sat with THR to talk about the how the series came to be and what viewers may expect.
‘The River’ is about the search for Dr. Emmet Cole, a nature show host who went missing while looking for magic in an uncharted region of the Amazon. When his emergency beacon suddenly goes off 6 months later, his wife and son decide to search for him. They form a search team and to help fund the rescue, allow Cole’s ex-show producer to film the rescue as a documentary.
Peli states that the idea for ‘The River’ actually began in2007 while making ‘Paranormal Activity.’ He and producer, Steven Schneider, came up with the idea of “nature run amuck and animals taking over humans” and wrote a four page treatment for a low budget movie. Then they got involved with other projects and the treatment was forgotten.
Then one day, Peli had a meeting with Steven Spielberg:
“… things started happening with Paranormal Activity, and I had a meeting with Steven Spielberg. To me, having grown up on E.T. and Indiana Jones, he was this larger than life God of cinema and there I was sitting across from him chatting about his movies and my movie and politics and all of that. At several points, I stopped to remind myself, ‘Holy sh–, I’m talking to Steven Spielberg.’ At one point, he says, ‘You know, we should really do a TV show together. There’s nothing like this, something very raw and visceral, on TV. Let’s figure out how to bring the horror nature of Paranormal Activity to TV.”
Peli had forgotten about the treatment until he was with writer Michael Perry developing ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ and the idea of the original treatment came up.
“…he just goes bonkers for it. He’s like, ‘This is a great idea, but why waste it on a movie when you can do a TV show where every season they go to a different place.’ So two days later, he has a whole pitch ready with the river and the boat. We call Dreamworks and we run the idea by them and they love it. They want to keep developing it and then we pitch it to Spielberg over the phone. He loves it and on the same call he starts pitching ideas back to us. Some of them actually made it into the pilot.”
With only 8 episodes in this season, Peli has some well-defined ideas of where the series will take the viewers:
“We do have a road map… We’re lucky because there’s so much folklore and real mythology that we’re drawing from, so I don’t think there’s a concern that we’ll ever run out of material. And as far as the run for the characters, we have a shorter-term vision for the next couple of seasons and a goal for when where we want it to end.”
Even with the success of the ‘Paranormal Activity’ movies and ‘Insidious,’ Peli states that the pilot for ‘The River’ was far more expensive than any other movie he’s been involved in.
“First, we’re dealing with real actors who get real salaries here, and then we shot the pilot in Puerto Rico and you had to transport people there. Plus, you’re dealing with a boat and a river, which are expensive things, and we had to build sets and do stunts.”
The show certainly sounds intriguing and I, for one, will be watching. You can catch a preview of this expensive pilot as ABC has released a full length trailer which you can watch below.
The 2 hour premiere of ‘The River’ airs tomorrow night on ABC at 9pm ET/PT and stars Bruce Greenwood (‘Star Trek’), Leslie Hope, Joe Anderson (‘The Crazies’, ‘The Twilight Saga’) and Thomas Kretschmann (‘Dracula 3D’, ‘King Kong’).