Television Review – Harper’s Island: “Whap”/”Crackle”

harpers island

I posted about this a month or so back, and I meant to follow it from week to week, but my schedule has just not allowed for that type of coverage. Instead, I’m forced to scrounge around on my DVR, watching it when I can. I sat down to watch the first couple episodes the other day – and to be honest, I was both excited and a bit wary of the new series. The show’s premise piqued my interest – a slasher miniseries? That sounds awesome! But my faith in the bigwigs at CBS to craft a successful and frightening horror television show wasn’t exactly at a high point.

In the first two episodes, we meet some of the characters of Harper’s Island. The main focus is on engaged couple Henry (Christopher Gorham) and Trish (Katie Cassidy), who gather a bunch of their friends and family together on a trip to Harper’s Island. But what fun is the show without a mysterious background to the island? Seven years ago, a man named John Wakefield killed 6 people on the island, including the mother of Henry’s friend Abby (Elaine Cassidy). As the party gets back to the island, they start meeting up with friends from their past and soon encounter strange experiences on the island, which especially creates suspicion in Abby.

So far, Harper’s Island hasn’t done much for me. It’s script is quite generic and corny, including the characterization of each character. There are a lot of characters to remember and most of them don’t do a damn thing in advancing the plot one way or the other. It seems like a lot of them are there for eye candy and death scenes, because in the first two episodes, there’s been an awful lot of half-naked scenes and sex, and all of the deaths have been doled out to characters that we’ve barely met. For Harper’s Island to make an impact, whether it be an attempt at actual fright or a throwback to older slashers, it needs to stick to its promise of killing off the main cast of characters rather than resorting to the lower reserves of the cast.

Most of Harper’s Island seems to involve the characters running through the woods as well. I’m wondering why the island doesn’t have normal roads that they can use to get around. Of course the killer is going to strike in the shrouded, mysterious woods – it’s so obvious that it’s sometimes painful to think that the rest of the series might be this cliched and foreseeable.

While the show is trying to extract some curiousity from the audience by giving us a bunch of scenes where we might suspect a new character as being the killer, it’s pretty poorly done for two reasons. One is the fact that there are just too many characters to keep track of, and most of them aren’t even characterized yet. The second is that the character’s motives are transparent and don’t need explanation from the show. I get the point – there’s animosity within the group, but I don’t suspect ANY of the characters I’ve met in the show to be the killer yet. For some reason, I can’t help but think that towards the end of the series, we’ll get a surprise “twist” that unveils the killer as not being a part of the in-group we’ve followed, and that is going to be an uber disappointment.

Harper’s Island is semi-entertaining, taking into account it’s one of the only shows to use this formula over an entire season of television. Yet I think that it’s missing a few things to make it truly successful – it needs much better dialogue, it needs to be less obvious, and we need to know the characters better before we can even begin to relate to them. The only problem is the audience’s need for instant gratification; the formula I set up would probably take a few episodes to pan out, and even then, we’d still be getting to know the characters. This doesn’t work very well for a TV show that’s trying to get in and out in only one season, and I don’t think it’s possible with a show so full of characters. Here’s to trying though, and hopefully Harper’s Island can draw the viewer in more with less formulaic scripts and more suspenseful turns.

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  1. Wasn’t there something along these lines a few years ago? Instead of a miniseries it was like a reality show where contestants had to play a “real” life game of Clue. My memory of it (or lack thereof) would suggest that it tanked. I think Harper’s Island might do the same for the reasons you’ve outlined, so I’ll pass.

    P.S.
    Great review 😉

  2. Thank you.
    That show that you’re thinking of was Small Town X, a reality show which brought individuals together to try and solve a mystery of “murders” going on, and they had to figure it out before they were sent out in the dark to encounter the killer.

  3. It’s all a matter of opinion I guess. I happen to love the show. Matter of fact everything you say seems to be total opposite. Killing of main characters… happens every episode… who expected the uncle and the brides father so early off. Cliche’… not at all… This series is totally different from anything I see here in the states. Apparently mini series like this happen all the time overseas, yet here never as common. And if you watched the show more with an open mind you would see that no body has died in the woods in a cliche’ way. No body is running from the villain in the middle of the night. Matter of fact the death scenes are unparalleled to the usual horror scene deaths. Then you go to comment that it needs to be less obvious… yet you remark that you don’t suspect anybody to be the killer. How exactly does that work? And apparently you only watched the first two episodes… well no wonder you don’t enjoy the show, how can you make a judgement so early on? These episode were to introduce us to the story… and yet they still please us with the suspense and thrills as five people die. You critiqued a very unique and suspenseful show, yet I believe some of what you said to be false and brought about merely to create a review. So, I decided to critique your piece. Please, next time you critique, get your facts straight. The only thing I see wrong about this show, would be the time-slot. Where’s your comment about that? I understand everyone has an opinion… but the logic and validity of your piece just seemed contradictory and hypocritical. So please work on this review… maybe after the series has finished.

    Thanks,

    Fan of Harper’s Island

  4. Anonymous,

    No need to get testy.

    To me, the dialogue is cheesy, the action over-the-top, and the characters simple two-dimensional caricatures.

    What I have done with my review is true to what you have said; I took what the show put out to me and made it into a review. I don’t understand how these “facts” can be false,as you brought about your representation of how they enhance the show. What I’ve said isn’t wrong, it’s merely an opinion that you don’t agree with. That’s fine with me, but for you to tell me to
    check my facts is certainly a bold and unwarranted statement.

    And you’re right, I have only seen two episodes, but you call the show “suspenseful.” If after two episodes out of thirteen I’m not feeling suspense of any degree, I’m going to point it out.

    Though I’m glad you enjoy Harper’s Island, as fans will generate more shows like this on cable, I can’t say I agree with your praise of what the show has been doing. I’ve seen a bit more of the series since this review and have to, regretfully, stick by my guns.

    Thanks for reading,

    An Un-fan of Harper’s Island

  5. I’ve been falling the show. every episode and it gets better as the series continues. I mean sure there was a lot of necessary killings in the beginning but when events start rolling the main cast really comes into focus meanwhile the lesser characters are no where to be found. I say watch the rest of the episodes. It might change your mind.

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