Brianna Geiger says So Cold The River is a spine-chilling adaptation of the suspenseful thriller novel by Michael Koryta.
So Cold The River is a thriller written and directed by Paul Shoulberg and adapted from the supernatural suspense novel of the same name by Michael Koryta. The film adopts a rather different narrative from the book. The book focuses on a couple of hotels and a deep spring with a dark and disturbing secret in a small town. In the film, the story’s male lead Eric Shaw becomes Erica Shaw (Bethany Joy Lenz), a famous documentary filmmaker. After creating a funeral video for Alyssa Bradford-Cohen's (Alysia Reiner) sister, she is hired to profile reclusive ailing millionaire Campbell Bradford (Michael J. Rogers). Erica takes the job, not realizing the dark secrets that lie within his past.
Bethany Joy Lenz’s portrayal of Erica Shaw is absolutely captivating. She doesn’t shy away from embodying the characteristics of an artist obsessed with their work. While Erica has the power to learn the truth through her visions, she fails to prevent a casualty that destroys her career. Her foresight is reminiscent of Danny Torrance’s psychic ability in The Shining (1980). Lenz presents Erica as a starving artist haunted by her mistakes, evident in how she holds herself when she first takes the job.
Erica’s calm and collected facade breaks away as she dives deeper into Campbell’s life. She reignites the flame of her past desires and seeks to correct the mistakes by telling the truth. In a scene where Erica breaks down about her past, Lenz puts her entire heart into this performance. To make the audience pity yet not empathize or feel remorse for a character is a remarkable feat. Lenz’s personification of Erica is so beautifully executed that it’s hard to look away at times.
The metaphysical implication that the town’s water is the source of the haunting is unique. Typically, a paranormal source is a physical object related to the entity, such as a doll, book, personal possession, ritualistic artifact, etc. However, this film uniquely extends the haunting, trapping the town’s residents under its veil of destruction.
The film’s story is often incoherent and inconsistent. Its only vital element is the establishment of villain Campbell Bradford. His backstory is interlaced throughout the film, but the plot unravels and becomes muddled the more his history is revealed to the audience. The muddling is prevalent in the final act as the film changes its slow-burn pace, becoming fast and erratic. The ending became impossible to predict, and it felt disconnected from the story. The character of Erica Shaw also receives no pointed development, which contributes to the film’s confusing conclusion.
So Cold The River is a unique and exciting paranormal story with several peculiar characteristics. Lenz’s performance alone makes the film a must-watch thriller. While there are many muddied moments, I found it to be an enjoyable watch.