Holy friggin’ crap. Harper’s Island is 13 episodes of network television depicting Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Leatherface, and Pinhead’s wet dreams. I have to admit, this brilliant specimen of television, and excellent proof that there really are good writers with good ideas left in the business, eluded me for some time. Harper’s Island aired in 2009 and if I am not mistaken, it was 2011 before I ever even heard of it. Probably the biggest shocker of them all is that it was my brothers who were the ones to tell me about it. Now I’m not expecting you to understand the difference between my brothers and I, but know it is very strange that they actually show good taste in viewing entertainment, let alone something we can all agree on. But I digress. What happens when you put two dozen people on an island off the coast of Seattle for a rich girl’s wedding? You guessed it, death, destruction, chaos, filth and greed! Well, maybe not greed, but I can’t say the other four without including it, thanks Eddie Furlong.
We begin just as I said, a large group of people on a boat departing for Harper’s Island, where Trish Wellington and Henry Dunn are to be married. The beautiful thing about this show, is that they don’t waste any time. They jump right into the killing, building the suspense from Jump Street. On top of that the cast of suspects/victims is so vast that it takes you roughly eleven hours to find out just what the holy hell is going on. The slasher movie gene pool is full baby, and to the brim. You’ve got your good girl Abby Mills, the estranged islander with the tragic past and female lead, her best friend Henry Dunn, Mr. Apple Pie and groom to be, Trish Wellington, princess rich girl and bride to be, a foursome of frat-house fresh cronies as Henry’s groomsmen as well as four prissy socialites all of whom seem to actually eat their breakfast at Tiffany’s. The family of the bride in all of their one percenter glory, and a slew of fishermen and local islanders all of whom seem to have at least a little bit of a motive. It’s brilliant.
Potty Mouth, I think not:
Of all of the shite TV that we are berated with daily and nightly, the very existence of this program within the last five years is absolutely amazing. I know there are great TV shows, and I know even more that they are few and far between. None, not even our precious American Horror Story, can stack up to the execution of Harper’s Island. One of my favorite aspects is how they believably avoid profanity. You forget all about it. In a lot of made-for-TV thrillers, the situations the characters face, and the dialogue that occurs is absolutely ludicrous. The writers write these stories as if they will be turned into the next great R-rated blockbuster, but then have to alter the vocabulary to abide by FCC regulations. HI was written in such a fashion and so cleverly done, that you can make it through all 13 episodes before you realize that although faced with many an opportunity, not a single “WTF?!” is uttered. It could even be that whilst viewing, you yourself are the ones uttering said phrase.
Lines Crossed, Barriers Broken:
I don’t like to make assumptions, but seeing as it is most certainly one of, if not THE most, prominent slasher thrillers of the last 20 years, I am going to assume you have all seen Scream. And having seen Scream like you damn well should have, you ought to know the rules of the horror/slasher/thriller/serial killer type movie; all of the debaucherous acts and foreboding one-liners that will ultimately lead to one’s almost immediate, certain, and bloody demise. HI plays on these rules, also assuming that you know them, using that knowledge of your knowledge to build suspense where there really isn’t any, forcing you to the edge of your seat only to leave you pulling your hair out after the suspense has made it’s way to your very core.
The Only Love Story That Tugs At These Hardened Heart Strings…And It’s Only 5 Minutes Long!
Amidst the mayhem, there is a seemingly odd pairing, one Chloe Carter and one Cal Vandeusen. She a wealthy socialite princess type, he a geeky, goofy, British doctor who doesn’t appear to have a manly bone in his body. From the very beginning one would assume that she is with him for his money and nothing more, but as the story unfolds we find that just the opposite is true. I’m going to show you a clip from the show. So if you haven’t watched yet, do not continue. If you do continue against my warning, and then watch the show, and find it ruined because you have already watched these 5 minutes…I would smack you if I could.
Some people think of “The Time of Our Lives” or “Unchained Melody” when it comes to the most romantic love scene. I will forever think of this song, “Letters From the Sky” by Civil Twilight. Since my initial viewing, I have watched this series through a half dozen times, three of which since the beginning of this past summer. Especially considering the number of times I have watched, I have always felt that I could stop right after this scene. The cinematography and use of slow motion combined with the well acted scene and that music, this scene had the air of more importance than the actual denouement.
In conclusion, Harper’s Island was a revelation in modern television, and it’s relevance rings true even through multiple viewings. Miniseries’ rarely go more than 4 episodes…13 to me is groundbreaking and seems to have opened the door for annual serials like our American Horror Story. I say to you, kind viewers, watch this show. As always (all together now) IT’S-ON-NETFLIX! Choose not to and you risk having not lived a full life.
One issue…not once is Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” played in irony…missed opportunities.