Last night ABC premiered their new found footage (such a popular form these days) horror-thriller The River, a trip into an Amazonian heart of darkness that should be roundly praised for its ambition, though still viewed with a healthy amount of skepticism. It's a fun premise, but can it ultimately work?
The setup is perfectly spooky: A TV nature explorer with the too-sinister name of Emmet Cole goes missing in the Amazon jungle while filming one of his specials. So his wife and grown son enlist the financial help of a sleazy producer to head out onto the river in search of him, convinced this lover and champion of nature surely can't have been killed by it. The TV producer brings a camera crew, and that's the lens through which we see most of the action. (Cole's boat, found within the first hour, also has fixed cameras that show us things not caught by the crew.) Of course the expedition quickly runs into trouble; after finding footage of Cole in some sort of tribal shaman trance they are attacked by some unknown, tree-snapping, Lost-like force. "There's magic out there" was Cole's signature tagline on his show, and indeed there does seem to be magic lurking in the dark. Bad magic. So we get a little Lost City of Z mixed with Indiana Jones and The Blair Witch Project here. It's a tasty soup of tropes and themes, and we're genuinely curious to see where it all ends up. Though, we're cautious too.