So Cold the River (2022) Review
So Cold the River opens with former hotshot documentary director Erica Shaw (Bethany Joy Lenz, Thinner, One Tree Hill) making a slideshow for someone’s funeral. It’s about all the work she can get since one of her films proved a convicted killer’s innocence. Only for him to slaughter his entire family as soon as he was released.
One of those slide shows leads to her being hired by Alyssa Bradford (Alysia Reiner, School Spirits, Orange is the New Black) to shoot a biography of her father, Campbell Bradford (David Myers Gregory, The Last Son, Little Evil). With a bottle of Pluto Water, mineral water with alleged healing properties as her only clue, she heads to the town of West Braden Indiana to begin shooting. Once there she quickly realizes this isn’t going to be as easy as it seems when Anne McKinney (Deanna Dunagan, Running Scared, The Exorcist) the self-appointed local historian goes quiet and excuses herself at the mention of his name.
Writer/director Paul Shoulberg (Ms. White Light, The Good Catholic) adapted So Cold the River from the novel of the same name by Michael Koryta who also wrote Those Who Wish Me Dead. Being from Indiana Koryta incorporated a local landmark, The West Braden Hotel into the novel and fortunately, much of the film was also shot there.
A palatial structure built in the middle of nowhere it becomes something of a character in So Cold the River in its own right and gives the film a Shining type feel at times. Especially once Erica, who has a sort of sixth sense, begins having nightmares and hallucinations involving the building. And while there isn’t a sinister bartender there is Dylan (Kevin Cahoon, GLOW, Mars Needs Moms) a concierge who keeps pushing her to attend the hotel’s Rebirth Festival and whose comments seem a bit too knowing.
Also like The Shining, So Cold the River relies more on atmosphere and suspense than outright scares. But it’s clear that some kind of evil is present in West Braden and it’s linked to the subject of her film, a man so evil he beat the hotel’s owner to death in front of the man’s son when he refused to sell it to him. And that was far from the only blood on his hands.
Perhaps a bit too coincidentally Erica gets involved with Josiah Bradford (Andrew J. West, Dead of Summer, Nightmare Code) the only relative of Campbell still in town. She also gets an intern Kellyn (Katie Sarife, Annabelle Comes Home, Zombies and Cheerleaders) who seems to know a bit more about her than even her self-described biggest fan should.
At times feeling as much like a paranoid thriller as a horror film, So Cold the River mixes atmosphere and suspense with happenings that could be supernatural or merely hallucinations. brought on by an overly stressed mind. Or is it the effects of that bottle of Pluto Water Erica keeps drinking from? Could the water be responsible for the so-called Campbell Curse?
By the time the last act rolls around and the film exchanges its slow burn for a fast, violent pace, it becomes nearly impossible to guess just how So Cold the River is going to play out. This was one that had me guessing up until the final reveal as an assortment of secrets and motives come to light. It’s a solid ending to an enjoyable horror thriller.
Saban Films released So Cold the River to US cinemas on March 25th and it’s now available on Digital and VOD platforms. You can check out their Facebook page for more details. And if you fancy another dip in the river, FilmTagger has a few suggestions.