A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this horror-suspense series from Steven Spielberg and Paranormal Activity producer Oren Peli is too scary for tweens and anyone sensitive to "jump" scenes. Violence isn't as much of a concern as the spooky sequences that show supernatural forces at work (inanimate objects move, ghosts haunt sections of the jungle, and malicious spirits nab people from their tents) which often is more frightening than a blood-and-guts flick would be. Language is a mild concern ("hell" is audible, but everything harsher is bleeped); there's also some mystery surrounding the nature of a shady character's intentions that adds to the suspense and sense of peril. On the plus side, there's some positive human drama aligned with Tess and Lincoln's search for Emmet, since they see finding him as a second chance at a positive family relationship.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
When renowned adventurer/TV personality Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) goes missing on an Amazonian expedition, his family and friends join forces to track him down and bring him home. Led by Emmet's wife, Tess (Leslie Hope), and his estranged son, Lincoln (Joe Anderson), the team's journey into the jungle is fraught with mystery as they follow the uncertain clues they've gleaned from Emmet's final recordings. Their mission takes them to unexplored places where paranormal forces threaten their progress and even their lives, and where the line between what's real and what's fantasy is hazy at best. Joined by a hodgepodge team of researchers, bodyguards, and videographers, all of whom have their own agendas for tagging along, Tess and Lincoln press on to locate Emmet in the hopes that reuniting with him will help heal their strained relationships.
Is it any good?
THE RIVER is a chilling, unpredictable series that pairs heart-pounding suspense with intense human drama. The story borrows plot and style points from the likes of Lost and The Blair Witch Project, as well as producer Oren Peli's well-known Paranormal Activity, so it's hardly groundbreaking. That said, the show is a fun watch, and its spine-tingling mysteries don't end with the things that go bump in the night. Longstanding tensions among the characters create drama where there otherwise isn't any, and unraveling the secrets behind their motivations conjures almost as much nail-biting as the unsettled spirits do.
The human side of The River explores the tenuous relationships between parents and kids and between marriage partners, and some of the issues it raises are worthwhile for families. Grown-up Lincoln is reluctant to forgive his father for what he views as an unfulfilled childhood, but his emotions are complicated by the possibility that his father might be alive and in danger. This side of the show's content may well spark some productive discussions within families, but parents should be thoughtful about exposing their tweens or young teens to the show, since the paranormal-based suspense is potentially more haunting than gory violence would be.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the supernatural. Do you believe in spirits and ghosts? What evidence (or lack thereof) influences how you feel? Do you know anyone who claims to have had a firsthand experience with a spiritual being? Do firsthand accounts seem believable to you?
Do you find The River scary? How does the nature of its horror compare to a show or movie that has more physical violence? Which type of content is more disturbing to you? Why?
Teens: How far would you go to protect or save a family member? What if doing so put you in danger? Is there anything you wouldn't do for someone you love?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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