Although the trip down The River was cut short just as the series was getting good, the DVD release of the Complete First Season capture the magic of the eight episodes and features enough bonus material to please fans of the short-lived series.
From Oren Peli (director of Paranormal Activity) and executive produced by Steven Spielberg, the series was shot in the "found footage" style of filming and a premise of a show within a show set on the mysterious and magical Amazon River.
The series featured Bruce Greenwood, Joe Anderson, Leslie Hope, Eloise Mumford, Paul Blackthorne, Thomas Kretschmann, Daniel Zacapa, Shaun Parkes, Paulina Gaitan, Scott Michael Foster, Katie Featherston, and Lee Tergesen.
The pilot episode does an excellent job of setting up the premise, establishing the series’ look and feel, and getting the audience hooked.
Documentary filmmaker Dr. Emmet Cole (Greenwood) took his television series "The Undiscovered Country" into the uncharted areas of the Amazon in search of true magic and disappeared along with his ship The Magus and crew.
Six months after his disappearance, the world mourns his lost as his wife Tess (Hope) and his son Lincoln (Anderson) discover evidence that Emmet might be alive. Agreeing to allow cameras to film the rescue mission, Lincoln and Tess head to the Amazon with producer Clark Quietly (Blackthorne), security expert Kurt Brynildson (Kretschmann), Lena Landry (Mumford) - whose father was Emmet's cameraman, camera operator A.J. Poulain (Parkes), and ship's mechanic Emilio Valenzuela (Zacapa).
The group also includes Emilio’s daughter Jahel (Gaitan) - who helps her father keep the boat running and also has some psychic abilities.
After the group discovers the Magus in somewhat working order, they make the decision to continue deeper into the uncharted areas of the Amazon in search of Emmet and deeper into the supernatural magic that seems to have claimed Emmet and his crew.
Not wanting to spoil any of the twists or scares of each episode, The River was an excellent thriller of a series that unfortunately was cancelled before it had a chance to really find an audience.
Each episode answered a few questions while keeping the mystery going so that the audience stayed hooked on Emmet’s quest for the source of magic. The episodes also managed to keep the audience on the edge of their seats and even offer a scare or two if you allowed the story to get into your head.
Each episode features archive clips from "The Undiscovered Country" along with found footage of Emmet’s quest (that the rescue group uses to try and discover where he might have gone) along with the footage of the rescue. The archive clips are a great way to get the audience to care about Emmet and also demonstrate just how unbalanced he was becoming on his quest to find his source of magic.
The River features extremely strong performances from its cast and the series writers make the most of the setting to give the characters a chance to develop while having to deal with the restriction the location puts on the story.
The series took full advantage of its unique style of shooting (various styles of cameras were used) to capture a claustrophobic feel along with colors and production design (the Magus always had a yellow sick tint to its interior shots) to sell the dire circumstances of the rescue attempt.
The Complete First Season DVD collection features excellent bonus material fans of the series will enjoy. The release includes commentary with executive producers/writers Michael Green and Zack Estrin, director/producer Jaume Colliet-Serra and actor Bruce Greenwood; deleted scenes; and “making of” feature that shows how much work went into the series to get every detail right.
Although it only features eight episodes, The River: The Complete First Season has enough twists and scares to hook you its story and characters. It is unfortunate the series got cancelled just when it was getting really good, and the plotlines are left wide open as to where the show was heading.
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