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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. Conveniently, everyone they meet on this jungle excursion into Brazil speaks English or Spanish so don't worry about language barriers!
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.
55 comments69 of 76 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 22, 2012
Don't believe the negative reviews. This is a suspensful series that needs to be explored in more depth. There is nothing out there like The River, including Lost, which I was a huge fan. I hope this series is picked up by another network that is willing to give it more time to develope.
0Comment25 of 27 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 29, 2013
The River, which premiered in 2012, centers on a search-and-rescue operation for Dr. Emmett Cole, a TV show host known world-wide that went missing somewhere in the Amazon. With his son and wife leading the search party, they make it to the Amazon, only to encounter something beyond explanation. Like Dr. Emmett Cole says at the end of every episode on his show The Undiscovered Country, "There's magic out there."

Produced by Orin Peli and Steven Spielberg, The River is a terrifying and imaginative drama that goes outside the box. With the recent hits of the "found-footage" sub-genre in horror, ABC brought in a TV show with the same formula of filming, but with a cast, plot and visuals that are delivered spectacularly. Joe Anderson was great as Lincoln Cole, the son of Emmett, but it was Thomas Kretschmann who stole the show as Kurt, the mysterious bodyguard who protects the crew as they traverse the Boiuna. Sadly, for some stupidly annoying reason, the network decided to can the series (like a lot of phenomenal shows including Firefly, Daybreak, and Invasion). With a season of only 8 episodes, the writers were able to create something extraordinary, but leave a great many questions unanswered as the show was canceled. Like Lost, The River takes us to a place we know nothing about, and the rules of reality are broken. This show isn't for everyone, but anyone who appreciates thrillers, mystery, sci-fi/fantasy and supernatural dramas, this show is perfect. Hopefully, someone gets a campaign started to bring the show back for one more season because there is still plenty of room to answer and bring to light questions and answers. Kickstarter right now is doing well with bringing back TV shows, so let's get The River back for at least one more season of 13-14 episodes.
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on July 4, 2012
The River took me by surprise and by the end of this non-stop entertaining trip, I didn't want it to let me go.

With the first episode throwing you into the story, it's hard to warm up to the series, but by episode 3 I was hooked.

The characters, though some may call cliche, all had their own unique personality and added different dimensions to the story.

What really sold me on the series is the "mockumentary-style" that it is shot. I eat this stuff up so badly. With movies like Cloverfield and Quarantine being two of my all-time horror favourites, this was a complete treat for me.

At times the work seems derivative of others. One episode seems inspired by Quarantine and 28 Days Later, another seems inspired by the Exorcist, another inspired by the Blair Witch Project. For me, it was not bothersome. The River still felt entirely original whether or not I could see other movie references and inspiration within it.

If you're a fan of horror and suspense or even of the "mockumentary-style", definitely check out this television series.

I wish they would continue with the series and make a second season, but something tells me that is not going to happen.

It's not everyone's cup of tea, but if it is, you will definitely want to refill your cup over and over again with The River.
0Comment7 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 20, 2012
look i get that this show is familiar. but what i find the most intersting about this show is it's use of tropes in new ways. the best thing to me about this show is that it's typical horror t.v. monster of the week use doesn't preclude the progress of the search. it all has connection and keeps your interest. some eps. are better than others but the adult reaction with the colorful language and behavior for me makes this one of the better shows on t.v. i especially enjoy the relationships of the characters. this show keeps the viewers interest and to me it's better than celebrated shows like american horror and walking dead. why? because it seems to be less using the form of the genre while respecting the predicesors of horror. kind of in the way battlestar galactica did in the early millineum. i recomend this show for watchers looking for more depth in their scfi. especially if you are a reader of lovecraft and alan moores swamp thing - american gothic. it's everywhere if you open your eyes to it.
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on November 2, 2013
The River is a niche "series". One of those you'll love it or hate it type of thing. And, I quoted "series" because it says season 1, but it is basically a closed story arch with a cliff hanger. So, while there is an opening for a follow up season, or more than one, if they don't carry on, it still ended fairly well.

The short and ugly of this product is this:

1. Wild life expert, and film crew, lost in Amazon.
2. Expert's family, with film crew, head to Amazon to find lost people.
3. Hand-held, shaky cam mixed with fixed angle security cam, occasional clips from earlier periods of time.
4. Various legend and and folklore of the Amazon touched upon.
5. Some questions just won't be answered, so... be ready for that.
6. Deaths do occur, but gore and bloody effects are minimal at most.

If you enjoy suspense, supernatural, or lost footage type films, give it a shot. It is surprisingly well done for a "series" designed for cable t.v..
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on September 6, 2013
so I saw this advertised on the chiller channel and it looked really good but I missed the first two weeks or so of it coming on that channel so I bought it since it was so reasonably priced. the first episode got me hooked!!! and the last episode left me wanting more. I gotta say I never watch shows like this but the way it was shot and the setting made me get interested in it in the first place. I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. but it was really good, I googled around to see if there was a season 2, but all I saw was about it getting canceled from the channel that originally aired it which I think was abc? not sure, but Im very disappointed that there is no follow up season, you can only conclude from the ending that they never was able to leave and all eventually died. which with the ending they left us with it coulda been so much more if they had a season 2. so yes this is a good show, but because there is no season 2 and an open ending makes me sad to have watched it, I guess thats because I cant stand movies or shows that leave you with no real ending. I must add the way this was shot made for an even more unique experience. either way Im glad this show was made and I watched it, I just wish they would had made a season 2.
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on August 27, 2014
Despite the negative reviews which I think were a bit harsh the series kept me watching. Yeah, its average and probably could have been done better (considering Steven Spielberg was involved) but the happenings were weird and made sence to the plot. It did have have a conclusion even though it was cancelled after 1 Series. Had more thought gone into it before filming I think it would have been rivetting viewing with interesting different ideas.

Why the comparison to Lost??? That loses me. Did they even watch it??

I do question the G rating though??? Skinned and rotting bodies everwhere. Blood and guts with occasional vomiting?????? Children would never be the same!

It's a shame really because the potential was there!!
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on May 12, 2012
I absolutely LOVE this show. It is something our whole family enjoys watching and let me tell you that in of itself is amazing. LOL This is a great show and I truly hope that the show doesn't end where it left off. I'm dying to buy the DVD's, we have been waiting very patiently for the DVD's to come out. Now I'm just plain afraid to buy it thinking it will be like all the other shows that end with NO ending. If a season 2 comes out I will probably be buying this set.
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on September 20, 2014
I loved this show, and they cancelled it after only 1 season. The quality of the special effects was much closer to those you see in movies, not on TV. I'm glad I purchased this, but I wish they would have been able to continue the work for another season or two.
0Comment1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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