By: Aleks Chan
When I first heard CBS had picked up HARPER’S ISLAND last spring, I was intrigued: killing off attendees of a wedding party on a secluded island every week sounded like it could be Agatha Christie-style fun, especially with the decision to make it a limited series with a set end date. It had the potential — and I surmised this after seeing a few preview clips during last year’s upfront presentations – to be the sort of television event that seems such a distant idea now. Dreaming, in this case, is for suckers.
HARPER’S ISLAND doesn’t aspire to be anything but a means to repurpose old slasher films and gory teen flicks where melodramatic pretty folk get sliced up with the kind of visceral uninhibitedness that somehow dictates that all horror movie deaths must be done as grisly as possible. And in a way, it isn’t so bad: HARPER’S ISLAND isn’t the kind of suspenseful thriller you would ostensibly want it to be, but is rather the silly, preposterous train wreck that you can’t look away from.
Henry (Christopher Gorham, who somehow manages to smile in all his scenes in tonight’s premiere) and Trish (Katie Cassidy) are the bride and groom to be and have invited a small group of friends and family to the island to celebrate before the wedding. Henry and his best friend Abby (Elaine Cassidy) grew-up together on the island – him working there during the summer with his family, her as the sheriff’s daughter.
Abby’s hesitant to return – her mother was murdered years before by a man who “came to the island and started killing,” and seems to be back: every episode at least one of the 25 cast members is killed (somewhat masterfully, considering how the killer is in a lot of places at the same time). The deaths, are gruesome enough – you won’t find any of the delicacy in murder that you see in DEXTER, but they’re effective enough, providing a few genuine jumps if your willing to play along. (Tip: tune out the ONE TREE HILL-lite dialogue and you’ll be fine.)
For a 13-episode series without any intention to return (a British television model that a network like CBS would be smart to continue exploring), HARPER’S ISLAND does a decent enough job of providing admittedly cheesy thrills with characters you don’t need to care about (half of them are there be killed anyways) and a story line that isn’t at all demanding. It’s zero commitment television that can be as fun as you want it to be, especially if you have a DVR. So why not? Grade: B
HARPER’S ISLAND premieres Thursday April 9 at 10PM on CBC (GlobalTV in Canada)
Photo Credit: Chris Helcermanas-Benge/CBS