The River: Series Review

After finishing the entire series in two sittings, I’m still on the fence about this paranormal/action/horror jointly created by Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli and Michael R. Perry about a crew who sets across uncharcted regions of the Amazon River in a quest to find missing adventurer and TV personality Dr. Emmet Cole, played by Bruce Greenwood.

Six months after the disappearence of famed explorer and TV host Dr. Emmet Cole who sailed with his crew on board his ship/studio the Magus, a beacon from the ship gives his family hope that he is still alive and trapped somewhere in the jungle. The studio pledges to fund the expedition provided that his son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) and wife Tess (Leslie Hope) agree to film every moment of the search to come up with another hit television show. Joined by their old crew and some new additions, they brave the Boiuna, a mysterious part of the river that travelers dare not travel because of the dangers and legends it holds. What happens after is a mix of the supernatural along with drama aboard the boat as Cole’s crew are found one by one, helping to figure out the puzzle of Cole’s true quest and location.

The series goes backward and forward in terms of camera treatments, sometimes, going the traditional route and sometimes going all shaky cam (which I am not a big fan of), which Peli is a master of. Its storytelling also alternates between present day events and found footage left behind by Emmet Cole and his crew. At times, I applaud the storytelling and presentation because of the cinema-like approach but other times, it gets frustrating because the stories drag along in a very slow pace. There are also some elements of the shows Man vs Wild, Exorcist, Supernatural, and the Walking Dead with the presence of spirits, demons and mythical tribes in the jungle — whether that is a boon or a bane depends on the viewers.

I think that more than a horror, the show proceeds like a mystery where every episode leads audiences closer to the eventual revealation, but I still think that the story could have been fleshed out more, like who Kurt really was and what his girlfriend was doing in the research facility, among other things.

My problem with the show is that it succeeds in making audiences care about the characters and getting them involved in the story. The show was overall, well crafted and executed. But after hours of watching to reach the finale, the climax does not quite reach expectations and feels generic and ill contrived.

I’m not looking forward to a second season at all but it was good enough while it lasted, I suppose although I can’t get rid of this feeling of unrest about what could have been.