Braving the Rapid ‘River’

Courtesy of ABC Studios

Combining the intensity of a suspense thriller and a weekly reality TV show, “The River” seems to deliver the best of both worlds on a weekly basis. No more waiting for movie magic to be delivered once every year; with “The River” you can get your fill of horror and thrill every Tuesday.

Made by the same producers as “Paranormal Activity,” “The River” once again allows for America to sit at the edge of their seats in anticipation. Carrying many of the similar elements as its big screen predecessor, “The River” has suspense paired with ceaseless twists and turns.

The series follows a rescue team through the Amazon Basin on a search mission for explorer Dr. Emmet Cole and his ship, the Magus. Crossing into unchartered territory in “the Boiuna,” the rescue team follows the leads left by the Magus’ crew. Each of the clues thus far have led to a dead end, but not without some consequences. In every episode, the show explores new legends and superstitions of South American culture as the crew encounters spirits, magic and omens. As every sign shows, they do not belong on the river, and yet every week they follow it further and further in the search for Dr. Cole.

With most of the Amazon being untouched and unseen by modern man, the show has quite a unique edge and vision on the competition. It provides a realistic yet eerie account of a team that is literally making the map as they go. And with such a rich culture filled with superstition, the story possibilities are endless. Luckily, the audience has someone to explain it all thanks to the character Jahel, a native of the land who was raised on the Magus by her father, the ship mechanic. Jahel is gifted with something mystical and unexplained, and that paired with her knowledge of folklore has already saved the crew.

“The River” is not just a thriller; storylines of love, betrayal, abandonment, adultery and resent play as background emotions for all of the characters. The family dynamic, both direct and metaphorical, plays a key role in the show as well. But like with “Paranormal Activity,” it’s not necessarily the storylines that keep viewers watching.

The single camera film angles, shown documentary-style mixed with reality television hidden cameras, give an interesting feel to the television series that hasn’t really been seen before. The show looks like an actual documentary, but the surveillance cameras give it the eeriness generally associated with “Paranormal Activity.” With so much unknown about the story and so much footage being seen, you never quite know what will pop up. And just like “Paranormal Activity,” each time you watch an episode it seems as though something new has written itself into the show.

Following many themes of a book most of us resented in high school, Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” the show really does exemplify how life on the river can change a person. The further they go, the darker everything seems; it may just be superstition or it may be the darkness creeping into their souls.

Rating: 5 out of 5