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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Writer for TheMoonisaDeadWorld.net, HorrorSexy, and more spots around the Internet. Also a podcaster and lover of craft beer.