Ok, not a flick. This week Flicks On Flix is going small screen with a criminally underwatched and unfortunately cancelled after one season show, The River. Brought to you by Steven Spielberg and Oren Peli (he who gave us Paranormal Activity), The River was a brilliantly made throwback to The Outer Limits and Twilight Zone sensibilities that just never found an audience.
Ironically, when ABC announced that they wouldn’t be renewing the show, Netflix stepped up with an interest in keeping it alive but ultimately passed. Fair enough, House Of Cards and more original content came not long after this so it’s hardly right to say they shot themselves in the foot but still, this show deserved to get another season. Deep in the Amazon basin, famed explorer Dr. Emmet Cole is on the hunt for the real magic of the Amazon, ancient tribes and tails of spirits that will crown his legacy. Instead he disappears and when his emergency beacon starts sending a signal his wife and son must travel deep into the uncharted lands to find him.
The goal of the series is to discover the fate of Emmet but what it does so masterfully is a strange one – after one episode we don’t really care about that. It isn’t until the final two episodes that we actually get anywhere with this search and in the six episodes that come before that The River occupies itself more with a “Monster Of The Week” type structure where the crew must deal with the various supernatural foes the river throws at them. In other TV shows (recent seasons of Supernatural spring to mind) these standalone episodes frustrate, deviating and distracting too much from the main arc, but here they’re made so damn well and interesting that we can take six episodes of distraction and not find ourselves all that bothered that we are veering away from the goal at hand. Our team are constantly making their way up the river so the main plot thread is never entirely out of the picture.
The River is shot in the found footage style which some may turn away from instantly because, let’s face it, it’s been done to death. What’s different here however is that it entirely makes sense. The boat, the Magnus, is the very one used for the Cole family’s former TV adventures and so the fact that it is littered with cameras makes total sense and then there is also a camera crew with the boat for the simple reason that the crew agreed to fund the expedition I’m return for documenting the rescue operation. Yes, there’s a lot of POV work in order to ramp up the jumps and scares but you can allow it here as it’s just pulled off so skillfully.
It’s a crying shame that this show was cancelled, something you’ll agree with wholeheartedly once you see the finale, but it is a great compromise that we at least have this one season to appreciate, and thankfully it’s right there on Netflix for us to enjoy on demand.