A horror-inspired drama, this CBS series is about a group of friends and family who meet to celebrate a wedding on an island just outside Seattle, an island that is famous for a streak of unsolved murders seven years ago. ... more »Suspense ensues when they end up dead one by one; has the killer returned or is someone else to blame?« less
Kevin Killian | San Francisco, CA United States | 06/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We are so hooked on this show it isn't funny, which must be a tribute to the writing and the direction. The producers certainly know how to get you going, though it takes a few episodes before they can start reeling you in and playing you the way they want to.
At the very beginning there are too many characters--if you have ever seen Robert Altman's film A Wedding some of this will look familiar, but add into it a maritime setting, a fantastic yacht, and a culture of working class people trained to anticipate the needs of the wealthy, and you have a recipe for tension right there, and that's before you get the murders going. The families of Trish Wellington (Katie Cassidy) and Henry Dunn (Christopher Gorham, often looking oddly like lean, lanky, nutty Anthony Perkins) invite you to a destination wedding, one held at Harper's Island somewhere in the Puget Sound, where you will be staying at the incredibly glamorous Candlewick Inn, but there will be plenty of time for slumming and seeing how the other half live.
Chief among the main characters is our heroine, played by Elaine Cassidy, the Irish actress who made a splash in Atom Egoyan's Felicia's Journey ten years back. As Abby, the daughter of the local sheriff (Jim Beaver), Cassidy plays the tragic survivor of a mass murder that rocked the island seven years ago. Could the killer, John Wakefield, thought to have been shot down by Abby's dad, still be alive? Has he gone back to his ways of hanging his victims from the trees? For many episodes Fate and the unseen killer arrange it so that one by one, victims die but nobody really realizes it, thinking they have just gone back to Seattle and will return for the wedding ceremony. That got a little hard to swallow, but during this period we began to sort out who was who, who's sleeping with who, who resents the power of who, who seems irretrievably scarred by the earlier murders, and something of the sociology. Now we know the characters and it hurts when one of them dies.
The show's gory in spots, soapy in others. So violent is it that the individual episodes are named after comic book signifiers ("Ka-Boom," "Thwack," etc) and after a few weeks you learn to wait for the act of violence each one stands for. The "Sizzle" is particularly gruesome, though nothing yet matches the shocking death that takes place in the island's lovely old church. I still get headaches when I think about that one! Every cliché of this kind of slasher film is rehearsed here, but expertly and often with a twist. Even the one where a medium reads the heroine's Tarot cards and suddenly sees something in them too horrible to put into words and she runs out of the room mumbling, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." -Like the beginning of Agnes Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7! "
Harpers Island ROCKS
William Benevides | 07/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just finished watching the finale and this show was amazing. I was originally concerned with the pre-reviews saying too bloody for the Agatha Christie crowd not bloody enough for the Friday the 13th crowd. Well what about the crowd that just appreciates a well written murder mystery. The characters were all very endearing. The story grew darker each week. The "soap opera" element only helped to create characters that the viewer cared about. Alot of the deaths were creative and the plot twists were intriguing. Ultimately, the payoff was tense and thrilling. I can hardly wait to rewatch this excellent show on dvd. Thank you to CBS for airing this outstanding show!"
""Harper's Island" mimics the basic plot of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" with a heavier emphasis on gore. This slasher series was a gamble for CBS that may not have been a ratings success, but it's enjoyable nonetheless providing some genuine thrills, episodes jam-packed with suspense, and more surprisingly, endearing character development.
The series is a self-contained 13-episode murder mystery event, which means all loose ends are tied up and most questions answered within its thirteen episode run. Networks should embrace this formula more often as it discourages the many filler episodes that plague so many other shows that have been on air for seasons. Since there is no second or third season, producers don't feel the need to continually provide more questions (and no answers) to string viewers along for years. More often than not, these shows often get canceled before viewers get a chance to have their loyalty rewarded with a satisfying conclusion. "Harper's Island," while flawed, is an extremely enjoyable, and intense series with more heart than you would expect from a slasher television show. Sure this isn't Shakespeare, but there is more to the characters than your typical "Friday the 13th" installment.
The show revolves around a wedding party held on an island--eventually, characters (and wedding guests) start dying off in gruesomely creative ways, while those remaining are either fighting for their survival or serve as suspects. Episode titles are in onomatopoeia form, which gives viewers a hint at how one or more unlucky character will bite the dust in any given episode (i.e. Thwack, Splash). CBS billed this series as a Survivor-esque meets "Scream" format--meaning, each week one (or more) character is murdered, narrowing down the field of potential suspects before the ultimate reveal at the end.
The show does it have its flaws--the first few episodes are a bit uneven in quality as the producers try to set up character motives and various plot points. There are too many characters that only serve as slasher fodder in the beginning, but it doesn't take long, before the series dives into a suspenseful tour-de-force that never eases up until the last reel. Those characters who manage to live past the first five episodes or so, grow on viewers who will find themselves genuinely interested in the various characters' fates.
A keen viewer will most likely be able to guess the killer's identity before the reveal, but it doesn't make this show any less enjoyable. The cast is pretty much superb offering stellar performances, my favorite being Katie Cassidy of "Supernatural" fame. Slasher series in the past have been derailed by critics who have denounced the films' lack of character development. The advantage of this series is that the characters and stories evolve over a 13 episode timespan, which gives the viewers at home more than enough time to bond and become attached to the various characters. For example, one character may seen vapid and uninteresting in episode one, but towards the end, he or she is fully fleshed out and sympathetic to those watching at home.
The island locale is also very engaging. The scenary is beautiful to look at, with any normal person not hesitating to spend a great vacation there--yet once the characters realize they're in danger, they're stranded on the island and must fight for survival. Pretty soon, the island's most valuable assets--the beautiful woods, the various tunnels and hiding places, and overall seclusion--become the characters' nightmares come true. In the beginning, the deaths of minor supporting characters don;t resonate much with viewers--however, as the series progresses, likable and viewer favorites meet their demise, which I guarantee will prompt an emotional reaction from those watching at home.
While there are flaws scattered throughout the show, and while not every plot twist and turn is original or even unpredictable, I can't bring myself to rate this show less than 5 stars because it was ambitious and extremely enjoyable from beginning to end--the editing is tight and suspensful with never a boring moment in sight, and with a show that's billed a slasher murder mystery series, no right-minded viewer goes in with expectations that they're about to witness a philosophical character study of John Malkovich proportions. Simply pop your popcorn, lay back on the couch and enjoy this awesome guilty pleasure show.
The biggest turn on? Well, I found myself actually sad when the very last scene ended, which reminded me of two things: a) I had become emotionally invested in characters of a slasher series and b) a good show, even if it's flawed, will always leave you wanting more and not less. I couldn't ask for much more. I recommend "Harper's Island" with high enthusiasm."
HannahR | USA | 07/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why is it that shows like Harper's Island and Supernatural are so fantastic and yet so little hyped. Even TV Guide, in their review of Harper's Island, panned it so badly that I almost didn't watch episode 1. Boy, am I glad I did, as this has become our Saturday night "must see" TV. It's a bit slow going at first, because there are so many characters to sort out and learn to know. However, be patient. By episode 3 or 4, things start coming together and it's a gory thrill ride from then on out. Now with only a 2 hour season finale left to watch, the character's we've come to know and love are even more special to us viewers, so that when the kill comes, it's very gut-wrenching to watch.
This show is definately a DVD purchase I will be making on September 8th!"
It is well worth a visit to Harpers Island, don't miss it th
Movie Maker | Alexandria, VA United States | 07/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow! This is three (or four) years in a row that that CBS took a chance on unique, well written, well acted shows and failed to find an audience.
They had the sensational Jericho (brought back for a limited 2nd season) the fantastic Swingtown, and this year, the exciting Harpers Island.
None of them found an audience in the numbers needed to continue production, which is truly too bad. Harpers is great, if a bit gory - the storyline was created to be a bit of a puzzle. It will keep you guessing!
I look forward to enjoying all the episodes again, when this arrives on DVD - I can easily imagine enjoying this with friends and family over a long weekend!