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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
So I was expecting to love Alcatraz and dislike The River and found it was the other way around. Whereas Alcatraz has quickly turned into a police procedural, The River is more like a magic-laden, reality version of Lost.

The setup of the pilot episode was a good hook - a Steve Irwin-like TV personality goes missing after a 22-year long weekly show (there's the writers' optimism) and his surviving family venture out to the Amazon to find him after he's declared legally dead. Even within the first 20 minutes, the variety of characters and mystical elements demonstrate that the plot has many different potential directions it could go. The cast manage to find their feet quickly with these characters (which was missing in both Fringe and Alcatraz) so the audience can get to grips with the story.

Once we're in the Amazon, Bruce Greenwood heads up a pretty competent cast who face a series of horror-related encounters in their quest to find a missing member of their team. What could have been frankly ludicrous is given a certain credibility by the show-within-a-show format so it comes across as a significantly more interesting episode of Destination Truth. The character dynamic of the family is developing well too - the perfect nuclear family portrayed in the show has a number of dark secrets that are starting to unravel and I'm sure will provide the linchpin of the series.

While I've only seen two episodes so far, The River blends enough horror, suspense and mystery to rank as one of the best new TV shows this year. Seeing as Dexter has imploded, it's good to have a new series to fill the gap.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2012
I like the show, its kind of like the "Invasion" and "Lost" and "Anaconda" all in one, kind of,... but hte damn camera cut scenes makes me dizzy, and hard to concentrate on whats happening
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2012
The River, the latest in the cinema verite craze. It is violent, unsettling, jittery, and at times actually frightening. Often, however, the excursion to locate Emmett Cole runs aground, relying on typical boo-scares and tepid characterization to propel its quivering plot threads. The characters are drab and stereotypical, including a devoted wife, her MD son with daddy issues, a rough mysterious security official, et al. Which leaves most of the show's excitement to come from the scary components. Well...There are two questions you will continually ask yourself should you chose to ride this river. And they are pivotal, sometimes plot-breaking questions: 1) Who is filming/who edited this footage together? 2) Why isn't the crew so overwhelmingly terrified by the various beasties and dark forces they come across that they at least reference these events in later episodes, if not try to run away/psychologically collapse? Both of these errors contribute to the immense, immense amount of verisimilitude required to enjoy The River. Take, for example, a sequence late in the season where footage is found by the principle characters from an earlier expedition. The footage shows two people conversing on the forest floor, yet the camera switches to different angles, most of them in the trees. Presumably, someone hid cameras in the trees, but this is never mentioned and only one tape is recovered. Which means someone had to gather the footage and cut it together. Impossible given the removal of these particular characters from anything resembling society, let alone an editing room. Sounds like nit-picking? Well, it is. And yet when you make a decision to force every element of your particular show through a certain lens (in this case, the found-footage angle), you had better make sure it makes sense, otherwise your audience will abandon you.
Still, if you ignore the flaws in the central conceit, there is much spooky fun to be had on this show. As other reviewers have pointed out, there are hardly any decent horror shows available, so I suppose, we oughta take what we can get. And what The River provides is certainly ample in terms of fulfilling genre fan expectations. Zombies, demons, ships of the damned, and spooky dolls are only some of the terrors to be had in "The Boiuna"--the mythical Amazonian realm in which the action takes place. As the season nears its gory, devilish finale, the terror factor is ratcheted up and someone does actually reference the fact that these unlucky travelers have been forced into many, many bizarre situations. At the end of the line, The River is like a dangerous roller coaster. You are often very afraid that the track dragging you forward is a bit too convoluted for its own good, trying to pack in one too many twists and turns, liable to topple back on itself if prodded in the right fashion. If you buckle down and try not to think too much, you'll be rewarded at ride's end, if only by another enigma, another sickening scare.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2013
Wish they could have tried one more season to maybe tie things up or explain more! It was just getting together by the end so more would have been nice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2014
This show is fantastic: creepy and engaging adventures through the jungle. it's a great combination of adventure story and superantural.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2013
Different and fun. Wish there were more. The acting is good. "There's magic out there!" Who'da known he meant it literally!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2013
I really don't think this show was bad enough to not consider another season.
Please reconsider! 4 more words required
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2012
It's a pretty original show, it combines elements of hand cam horror with a science fiction magic theme. I'm personally hoping for a second season.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2012
i wanted to watch this series to catch up because I watch too many series to keep up with them all.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
In the primetime TV landscape, the usual program options have become increasingly formulaic, predictable and safe. With more than half of all network dramas being variations on the crime procedural, something that bucks the trend really has the potential to stand out. Even riskier is trying to adapt a horror offering within the strictures of regular TV in an era when audiences seem to clamor for more explicit and graphic thrills (see FX's delightfully loopy and crazed American Horror Story for something that really pushes the boundaries of conventional fare as it has much more freedom on cable). So I commend ABC executives for greenlighting the interesting eight-part experiment by filmmaker Oren Peli (who made a name for himself with Paranormal Activity). He shares the creator credit for this show with Michael R. Perry (he was also a writer on Paranormal Activity 2), a TV veteran who has dabbled in the horror genre before penning episodes of the underrated and short-lived "American Gothic" and Chris Carter's "X Files" follow-up "Millennium." While not always perfect, therefore, "The River" certainly has the distinction of feeling different and that's undeniably a good thing.

The idea behind "The River" is a good one. Bruce Greenwood plays a popular TV naturist who disappears while on an expedition in the Brazilian wilds. He and his crew are presumed dead. His wife (Leslie Hope) and estranged son (Joe Anderson) put together another documentary crew in an effort to find, and hopefully rescue, the missing men. Trying to piece together what happened through found footage, this new team faces increasingly strange and deadly obstacles the deeper they go. And it becomes abundantly clear that this voyage will have a body count as they seem to be pursuing a location known ominously as the Source. Will it hold the answers they desire? Is Greenwood alive? And will all the random horror elements be pulled together to make sense within a greater plot overview?

The Good:
Setting: For me, the best thing about "The River" is its unusual premise. ABC was so quick to try to brand this the next "Lost" that it overlooked that the two shows have very little common ground. The unexplored jungles and the claustrophobic confines of the river boat lend an unusual backdrop to the unfolding drama. Also, it just looks great.
Style: While the found footage genre has been a bit overworked since the "Blair Witch Project" confirmed its commercial viability, it is effective and different to see it employed in series television. As the horrors are unraveled through quick and random camera shots (either through the crew cameramen or through stationary cameras on the ship), the quick glimpses of danger can make things quite unsettling.

The Bad:
Poor Research: For a show that takes place in Brazil, someone might have noted that they speak Portuguese there as opposed to Spanish.
Ambient Sound: When strange things are happening, the program ramps up the sound effects and music to overwhelming proportions. Call me crazy, but I'd rather the dialogue was louder than the lapping of waves while characters in the river are conversing.

The Indifferent:
Rushed Beginning: The show takes but a few minutes to establish the characters before setting them adrift. It takes a while before we know anyone, much less care about them, and this lessens the impact of the earlier episodes. Stick around, though, things get better.
Horrors: The show aims for creepy more than scary, and that it achieves. Network TV is not a great place for in-your-face monstrosities, and within those limitations, the format does a good job providing some jolts. But our crew experiences such a diverse collection of nightmares, it seems like the creators just wanted to throw everything but the kitchen sink at us and see what stuck. Monsters, possessions, spirits, curses, natives: the mysterious and mystical horrors encompass just about everything you can think of. It's almost too much. And, of course, the mechanic's daughter is the requisite character that seems to know ANYTHING and EVERYTHING about these supernatural occurrences so that they can be "logically" explained to the TV audience.
Hit or Miss Ending: The 7th episode explains Greenwood's fate, but raises more questions than it answers. The screenplay and the characters are content to let most things go down without much contemplation. I did, however, like the finale's (8th episode) turn of events before the take-it-or-leave-it final scene.

I know people that both love "The River" and hate it. I can fully understand either position. But taken for what it is, it provides something different on television and that is an invaluable commodity in the land of cookie-cutter TV. At eight episodes, it isn't a huge time commitment and I was pleased enough to go along for the ride. I don't know that ten years from now that I'll be remembering the show as a classic, but for the moment--it was something that I enjoyed and would recommend for the right audience. About 3 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 3/12.
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