The River: The Complete First Season (DVD Review)

From Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, and the director of  Paranormal Activity Oren Peli, a truly harrowing and hair-raising series comes to DVD. “The River: The Complete First Season” tells the tale of famed wildlife explorer and TV personality Dr. Emmet Cole who went looking for magic deep in the uncharted Amazon and never returned.  Now, six months after he vanished, a brave crew of family, old friends and new acquaintances embark on a mysterious and deadly journey to find him in the deepest and darkest depths of South America. The DVD is filled with exclusive bonus features, including deleted scenes that draw audiences further into this heart-pounding adventure.


Dr. Emmett Cole (Bruce Greenwood) is the host of a long running television show called “The Undiscovered Country”. He and his family traveled the world for most of his son’s life doing a national geographic type exploration show. His catch phrase is “there’s magic out there.” Searching for magic in the amazon, Dr. Cole has disappeared. When the show begins it has been six months since his disappearance and he has been assumed to be dead. A memorial service has already taken place. Dr. Cole’s beacon goes off and his wife Tess (Leslie Hope) contacts his estranged son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) to convince him to embark on a rescue expedition. Soon after the search begins, the daughter of a missing cameraman joins them.

While searching for Emmet, the team realizes that there are many forces working against them. There are numerous supernatural forces messing with crew on and off the boat. The show’s creator Oren Peli is the man behind Paranormal Activity and many of the episodes have the same creepiness.  The entire expedition is being funded and filmed for television. The television producer appears to have a very personal interest in Tess. Although many children grew up watching and loving Dr. Cole, his relationship with his son was very strained and distant. There are lots of individual dramas going on between the characters during their search.

While I liked the river, it was not as creepy as the cover art suggested. I expected the kind of show you don’t want to watch alone with the lights off. The River did not live up to my hopes in that department. It did have ghosts, zombies and other scary things. It just wasn’t scary like paranormal activity and that’s a bit of a letdown for me.  I am pleased to report that season one does provide an answer about whether or not Dr. Cole is in fact out there in the amazon. I really hate it when a show is all about finding someone and then drags that on for six seasons. The show had an interesting ending, and if there is a season two it could actually be better than season one.


“The River Season 1” is presented on DVD in wide-screen 1.78: a ratio. The video quality pretty good for DVD but the mixture of footage varies the quality. When you add in the fact that much of the footage is meant to be the actual documentary recording so it’s intentionally imperfect. Many times the footage flickers to remind you that you are watching the recorded documentary footage but I feel like the flicker was distracting and overused throughout the season.


“The River Season 1” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The dialogue is clear and understandable from the front channels and the rear channels  provide a lot of activity and coverage.  The rear channels really capture the sounds of the jungle and all of its natural ambiance which adds a nice level of immersiveness to the show.  For a television show, this is a really good audio mix.


In the special features category I expected a lot more content. “The River Season 1” contains the following features :

  • Magus Audio Commentary – Director/Producer Jaume Collet-Serra joins Executive Producer/Writer Michael Green and Executive Producer Zack Estrin on this audio commentary. The Director doesn’t do as much talking as I would have expected but the three men provide some interesting insights and occasional humor.
  • Row Row Row Your Boat Audio Commentary – The same trio from the Magus commentary discuss the Row Row Row Your Boat episode.
  • Deleted Scenes – a selection of deleted scenes from season 1. I’m fine with all the editing made in the final cut.
  • The Magic Out There – A behind the scenes featurette including cast and crew interviews.


The search for Dr. Cole was a little too drawn out in my opinion and included too much filler. Instead of a season I think they could have accomplished the important points in a four episode miniseries. The front and back cover of “The River Season 1” promises a scarier show than what is delivered. Maybe I expected more based on the fact that Steven Spielberg and Oren Peli were attached. The back cover promises terrifying and eerie and I think The River failed to deliver that. They did manage to pull off interesting and sometimes creepy. Most importantly “The River” managed to hold my attention long enough for me to want to see a second season. It’s a solid 3/5 across the board and I hope it gets better.

Order your copy today!


2 Responses to “The River: The Complete First Season (DVD Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I watched the whole thing, only liked two episodes. Potential wasted…

  2. Brian White

    I was recommended this, but never followed through. If Aaron doesn’t like it, then I’m out!