The much anticipated debut of The River took place earlier tonight. Did it deliver the thrills and chills all the promos, previews & trailers promised, or did it drown in the dangerous waters of the Amazon before making it out of the super-sized two hour premiere…..read my review after the jump!
Synopsis: Six months after wild life enthusiast and adventurer Dr. Emmet Cole goes missing and the vast search has been called off, his ship’s homing beacon turns on giving hope that perhaps he is still alive along with his crew members from the last expedition. Dr. Cole’s wife Tess decides to gather a crew including her reluctant son Lincoln to traverse the dangerous and mysterious waters of the Amazon river in search of Dr. Cole. The crew includes Dr. Cole’s regular mechanic Emilio and his daughter Jahel, Capt’n Kurt the badass with the guns aka Security, and a TV production crew headed by Clark who makes sure to play every situation up for dramatic effect, even to the detriment of the situation at hand. Also of note is that the TV production is funding the trip under the stipulation that a reluctant Lincoln Cole participate.
Liked: For starters, I absolutely love the setting of the show. The Amazon River. Much of it to this day is unexplored by mankind and it is a place that holds many mysteries and extraordinary things that have as of yet being unlocked. This fact helps immerse the viewer into the atmosphere and really intensifies the deeper the group ventures into the jungle looking for clues.
The cast is also pretty good. It’d be really easy to get stereotypical characters over acting to fit the familiar roles we have seen in similar programming elsewhere. Not here. Everyone plays their role well without delving into the extreme characteristics one might expect from network television. This element will be curious to keep an eye on as the season goes on where tensions between the characters are sure to rise.
The pilot episode succeeds in being creepy, while aiming to ramp up in the scary department moving forward. Whether or not a show is deemed scary will end up being up to the individual, however damned if they aren’t trying with this show. It’d be very easy for a network television show to merely go through the motions in the scares department but the last half of the pilot and especially the last quarter really got the job done. Coming from Oren Peli known for his work on Paranormal Activity, viewers will recognize some of the same attributes in style during various scenes, however make no mistake this is no rehash.
Finally, the found footage sub-genre is one of the most polarizing in modern horror. Some love it, others hate it. I’m happy to say that The River strikes a good balance between being full-on found footage and regular filming style. Present day happenings are mixed in with plenty of flashbacks that help offer more pieces to the puzzle which helps prevent the show from falling into a single gimmicky style. Are there some shaky cam and quick cutting moments? Sure. However when they happen, they feel appropriate and not forced.
Didn’t Like: To be honest there is much not to like about the pilot. If there was one thing to point to though it would probably be the heavy-handed “supernatural” explanation that comes about after the crew breaks open the welded door. I admit that whole sequence came off a bit cheesy as well as the explanation that went along with it, however it wasn’t enough to hold this pilot back.
Verdict: It’s only been one episode, albeit a super-sized two hour episode, however it looks like ABC has a winner on it’s hands with The River. It looks like the crew will be encountering plenty of different spooky entities and mysteries along the way for the search for Emmet Cole which means each episode won’t fall into the trap of the crew battling one single ghost or being every time. The best part of the pilot to me was the fact that it got stronger, more powerful and more creepy as it went along. The show’s first two episodes were screened to a lot of media outlets and most feedback says that while the pilot was strong, the second episode blew it away. Here’s looking forward to that and the rest of the season of The River!