In 2012 ABC debuted found-footage supernatural, horror show, The River. It was then promptly cancelled it a little over a month later due to middling ratings. Forr the month that the show aired it was appointment television. At least it was for mine and my best friends’ family. Every Tuesday we would watch The River and Wednesday we would discuss the show when we go to school.
In a time where reboots, revivals, and unnecessary live action remakes abound rewatching The River was something different. True found-footage horror isn’t anything new and neither is a supernatural mystery, but The River still feels original. It’s not based on an existing property, it’s not a reboot or a revival. Sure it’s not the most original idea, but it’s fun.
ABC is no stranger to Gone Too Soon. Happy Town, Whiskey Cavalier, Take Two, Deception, Galavant, The Baker and the Beauty, and Whodunnit have all been included in this column. The River is joining some good company.
The River starts six months after the disappearance of tv explorer, Emmett Cole (Bruce Greenwood). He (and his crew) went looking for magic in the Amazon and never returned. His estranged son, Lincoln (Joe Anderson) has accepted his death, but Emmett’s wife, Tess Cole (Leslie Hope), still believes he is out there. After Emmett’s emergency beacon goes off, they, along with a camera crew A.J (Shaun Parkes), bodyguard Kurt (Thomas Kretschmann), and ship mechanic Emilio (Daniel Zacapa) and his daughter Jahel (Paulina Gaitan) head to the Amazon to find him. Joining the crew is Lena (Eloise Mumford), the daughter of Emmett’s longtime camera man and Clark (Paul Blackthorne) Emmett’s former producer, with his own connections to the family.
We also see Emmett’s crew, Russ (Lee Tergensen), Rabbitt (Katie Featherston), and Jonas (Scott Michael Foster) in footage found along the way. Slowly the story of what happened to the original crew is pieced together, while the new crew faces the obstacles the Amazon keeps throwing their way.
Should You Watch It
If you like found-footage horror movies and supernatural horror, then The River is the perfect show for you. If found-footage usually makes you sick then you don’t have much to worry about here. The camera is mostly steady, but it does move sometimes. The River does a pretty good job of presenting you with a premise and introducing the horror elements. None of the characters are particularly endearing. In fact some of them never make it much farther than all-knowing caricatures, Jahel seems to always know exactly what the crew is dealing with on any given week, and is given little else to do.
Still the show does have a few genuine scares and it’s only eight episodes so it could work as a great palette cleanser between shows. Also you get the added bonus of Scott Michael Foster, so I can’t think of a downside.
We’re in murky water again this week as far as cliffhangers go. From the beginning of the show we are told that everything we are seeing is found footage and the crew is presumably dead. Once you go into a show knowing that no one is going to survive then characters in peril is no longer a surprise and more of an inevitability.
Now if you want actual answers from The River then you will probably be disappointed, but it’s spooky fun and it’s never really bothered me that we are left with questions. The show answers enough and benefits from how vague the mythology is. Since the audience doesn’t ever find out a ton of information for why these things are happening beyond “it’s magic” the lack of answers doesn’t take away from the series.
Where to Watch
Every episode of The River is available to watch on ABC (the website and the app) for free without a login. There’s only 8 episodes so if you’re interested check it out.