Ever since the success of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT in 1999, the industry has been in love with first-person camera and found footage stories, especially in the realm of horror. Previous TV attempts haven’t worked out so well but I think THE RIVER might change that.
The basic premise is simple – explorer, wildlife expert and television personality Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood – SUPER 8, STAR TREK) has disappeared during an expedition in the Amazon and a group including his wife and son set off to find him. From that point on, things get much more complicated as the try unravel what happened to Emmet and his crew.
The cast does a great job at making what’s going on believable. At the center is Joe Anderson (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, THE CRAZIES) who plays Lincoln Cole and Leslie Hope (RUNAWAY, 24) who plays Tess Cole. Lincoln is pursuing a career in medicine and has a complicated relationship with his oft-absence father while Leslie is determined to find her missing husband and is the catalyst for the search. They have a natural rapport and play off each other nicely.
Rounding out the cast is Eloise Mumford (LONE STAR), Paul Blackthorne (THE DRESDEN FILES, THE GATES), Thomas Kretschmann (WANTED, TRANSSIBERIAN), Daniel Zacapa (RESURRECTION BLVD, CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND), Shaun Parkes (THE MUMMY RETURNS, IDENTITY), Paulina Gaitan, and Jeff Galfer (ALL MY CHILDREN). I’d tell you who their characters are but I don’t want to give too much away. Rest assured, they play their parts very well.
While it definitely fits in the horror genre and delivers some “oh crap” moments, THE RIVER also relies heavily on mystery and smartly leaves a lot to the imagination. The first hour of the series is structured in a great way where they reveal just enough of what’s going on to set up bigger questions. It’s an intriguing premise and I’m very interested in seeing where the story goes but I’m not sure how they can sustain it past two seasons and still be satisfying.
For those concerned about the nauseating shaky-cam effect, there are a few of those moments for the sake of “realism” and when it enhances the action but on the whole the shots are pretty steady. Granted I don’t suffer from motion sickness so I may not be the best gauge.
If you’re looking for scares of the blood-and-guts variety, THE RIVER may disappoint you but it is definitely atmospheric and creepy and worth a look. So go ahead – turn down the lights, grab some popcorn, and maybe grab the person next to you.
“The River” premieres on ABC Tuesday, February 7th at 9 PM Eastern/Pacific.