RIVER: the Complete First Season

Disney Home Entertainment
Release date: May 22nd, 2012
MSRP: $29.99

Dr. Emmet Cole  (Bruce Greenwood) has spent his life exploring the world and bringing it back, via his popular television show, to America. But while traveling down the Amazon, he disappeared. After a time, search and rescue efforts were halted and it was assumed he was dead.

But after his personal beacon starts to send a signal, hope is raised. Tess, his wife and Lincoln (Joe Anderson) his son , along with a television crew, head down river, in hope of bringing him home. But this is not as simple as it sounds, Lincoln (the son) resents his father for being more devoted to The Undiscovered Country (the show) than to his flesh and blood. He would not be going, but his mother begged him as the network would not fund the expedition without sonny. After all, what good is reality TV without drama? If Mutual OF Omaha’s Wild Kingdom was on today, we would see that Jim hated Carl and was an alcoholic with a fear of monkeys.

RIVER is a mix of mystery, supernatural and horror. And to go too much into what happens would spoil things. But I will say that weird-ass stuff happens and that there are evil spirits and undead. And at the heart of this is a very dysfunctional family. The show is a mix of footage from the voyage down river along with old family recordings of Cole family and footage from Dr. Cole’s Undiscovered Country show. It becomes quite clear that the Cole family has problems and a reunion in a jungle is likely not the cure for what ails them.

Once upon a time, the found footage concept was new and novel (anyone remember BLAIR WITCH?), but everyone is now familiar with it. And while they do a decent job with it here, it is still a cliched approach. Of course, so is almost everything else out there so I will give the show a break.

The cast does a good job, Anderson is the central focus of the show and holds his own. The truth is that in a show like this, you have to establish the personalities quickly or folks won’t care when they get eaten, dismembered, zombified or blown up. The River wastes no time developing the gang, with credit going both to the producers as well as the cast.

Is it scary? Eh, not all that much. The style it was shot helps make up for it with startling moments. They do a good job building tension, which is important since there is only so much you can show on TV. I would say it was fun and creepy and I got the feeling that the crew had fun putting this together and did so with gusto. Again, because I got to know the characters well, I was genuinely interested in seeing what happened and how Lincoln would react to seeing his father…if they found him.

Overall, I thought RIVER was hit and miss. But the creativity and style  make up for the shortcomings. Fans of the creepy and supernatural will likely enjoy a voyage down The River.

Jeremy Lynch