“The River” manages to serve up creepy, atmospheric fun, while still having an intriguing story. Didn’t get a chance to watch the premier episodes? Read my take on them below. Some spoilers ahead.

“The River” is filmed to look like it’s a reality show, to make it pretty much the television equivalent of a found-footage movie. In the opening moments of the show we are introduced to Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood), an adventurer and host of the TV show, “The Undiscovered Country”. Cole’s show aired for 22 seasons until Cole and his crew mysteriously vanished in the Amazon, and were pronounced dead 6 months later. The footage we’re presented as the viewer is a reality show following Cole’s wife, Tess (Leslie Hope), and Cole’s estranged son, Lincoln (Joe Anderson), along with a crew of film makers and adventurers who refuse to believe that the missing crew is actually dead. In the first episode, they find Emmet Cole’s ship, the Magus. On the Magus, they find that it’s been abandoned by the missing crew, but home to a stowaway, a vengeful spirit that they inadvertently set free. Amongst the stashed equipment in the ship, they find video footage of what Cole had been filming on this expedition, we the viewer get to see glimpses of Cole walking on water along with other unnatural images. As they are trying to leave, the spirit attacks again, killing the one of the cameramen, almost destroying the engine, and giving a small hint of hope as to whether or not Cole is still alive.

In the second part of the 2-part premier, we find the crew, despite the better judgment of some of them, continuing further into the jungle to search for Cole. A dragon fly lands in the mouth of the daughter of the ship‘s mechanic, Jahel Valenzuela, and instantly Jahel wakes up and walks from room to room until she finds Tess asleep. She wakes up Tess and it would appear that the spirit of Emmet is inside of Jahel and tells Tess that they need to leave now. Tess, now more determined to find Cole, ignores his warnings and urges the crew forward. They come across a graveyard and then a giant tree with old dolls tied to the vines. What some of the cameras catch, that the crew misses, are that occasionally the dolls appear to move on their own. While they are stuck camping in this creepy area, the crew is awakened by the sound of Tess screaming. They search for her and find her struggling and pulled into the river by an unknown force.

The performances here are pretty strong. What we see of Bruce Greenwood’s portrayal of Cole so far in archived footage from his series serves to show how much of a captivating TV persona he has and hints at some of distance between him and his son. Joe Anderson does a great job of showing his character’s love/hate relationship with his missing father. This is one of the few shows that I’ve seen where the special effects aren’t pushed to the point of being overly cheesy, which is one of the many advantages of the film style. What I’ve seen so far in these first two episodes has both managed to be genuinely creepy and scary. The mystery surrounding the main overall story is truly interesting and will keep me coming back for more, so long as it holds up to this stature.

My ruling so far is that this is one of the better new shows of the midseason. I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Final Grade: A

Travis “I hate olde tyme dolls” Kennedy