I just finished watching our TiVO backlog of Harper’s Island: The DVD Edition, a “whodunit” involving plenty of bloody murder and a “mystery” to solve. While I did enjoy the show quite a bit, it felt more like watching a television version of I Know What You Did Last Summer than a whodunit. It had a delightful, soap-opera quality to it, but wasn’t as awesome as I’d hoped it would be. More below.
- The main problem with the show is its billing. The show was much more like a slasher movie — in which we don’t really care who‘s chopping up everybody, but we want to know why. We also know most people won’t survive. Another difference from your usual whodunit was in the layers of suspicion. While the early part of the series put lots of great suspicion on everybody, it often undid itself by killing those people just as they were starting to look really good and guilty.
- The acting was creditable and enjoyable, and well within the genre. I especially liked the killer’s nervous smile in the last couple episodes. It contrasts brilliantly with the violence of his/her actions.
- There were a few “duh” moments that I found really obnoxious. Leaving the killer in a locked cell but unsupervised seemed (and turned out to be) pretty dumb. Also, in the classic horror movie trope, whenever the killer gets knocked down, people run away instead of finishing him. I’d hate to ever be in such a position, but I think I’d keep hitting until I was sure he wasn’t getting up again.
- The location for the film was perfect, with lots of scary everywhere. Forested northwestern islands make for great creepy venues. In that regard, the early sequences (in the first two or three episodes, no one realizes anything is wrong. Oops!) with the creepy traps in the forest were delightful.
- I was intrigued when I heard that this was to be a series. The second season would apparently be an unconnected but similar style of storytelling. I’m sad to learn that it wasn’t picked up. It would have been lame if any characters had carried over, but the possibility of trying this project again with different actors and story intrigues me.