Most of us have sat on our couch on a Saturday night looking for something to watch on Netflix. The only problem is, there are a lot of bad movies and shows on Netflix. So I thought I would be a good friend to all of you and start weeding out some of the bad ones. This is an idea for a new series of posts in which I will watch a randomly selected horror movie on Netflix and do a brief review on said film (this one won’t be that brief, but future posts will). How will I randomly select a film, you ask? It’s a rather grueling and scientific process where I close my eyes and place my finger on the screen and watch whatever horror movie my finger lands on. Sounds complicated, I know. Let’s get to it then, shall we? My first post is going to be about Harper’s Island, a 2009 CBS(!) series modeled after Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
I know, Harper’s Island isn’t a movie. But it’s what gave me the idea to start writing these posts, so I thought it would be appropriate to start off the “Netflix Roulette” series. I don’t have enough time to keep binge-watching shows on the weekends so pretty much all of my future posts will be on films.
I missed Harper’s Island when it originally aired on CBS back in 2009, and judging by the ratings, apparently many of you did as well. The first three episodes aired on Thursdays in April, only to be moved to the TV wasteland of Saturdays in May. It’s a shame, because Harper’s Island is actually a pretty great show and you can watch all 13 episodes right now on Netflix!
The plot is pretty standard: a group of friends gather on an island to celebrate a wedding. The only problem is that a mass murder happened on the island years before and more people start dying shortly after the wedding party arrives on the island. Suspension of disbelief is pretty much required to make it all the way through the season/series since you have to believe that anywhere from one to five people get killed in each episode and it takes five episodes for people to take notice, but it’s forgivable.
I can certainly understand why viewership for Harper’s Island dropped each week. From what I’ve seen, it was advertised as a creepy murder mystery that was going to have lots of thrills. While the latter half of the season fits that description, the first half is very much a soap opera with horror elements. It’s a shame more people didn’t stick around to see what it would eventually become (episode 5 is probably the point where I went from “meh” to “hell yes” on the show) because it grew into a very ballsy piece of television that wasn’t afraid to kill off its characters. Episodes 11 and 12 are probably highlights for me (I think the finale loses a bit of steam, but it doesn’t ruin the show as a whole).
The cast is mostly good, with the standouts being Katie Cassidy, Christopher Gorham, Cameron Richardson and Adam Campbell. Harry Hamlin also seems to be having fun in a small role. Not all of the acting is great (and the little girl is one of the most obnoxious characters I have ever seen on screen), but most of the lesser talented actors are killed off in the first few episodes. The pilot can be a bit overwhelming with its introduction of roughly 25 characters, but as more people are killed off, characterization becomes more of a focus. This benefits the show greatly, as many characters that were annoying or seemingly cannon fodder in the beginning are given depth that really makes you sympathize for them when they eventually die (and trust me, many of them die). Also adding to the fun: the episode titles are onomatopoeic, representing the sound (or sounds, in the case of “Thrack, Splat, Sizzle”) a character makes when they die.
While not perfect, Harper’s Island is far better than it was given credit for (it’s better than at least 2 of American Horror Story’s seasons). Watching it in as little sittings as possible is arguably the best way to watch it (remember how I said those first few episodes were kind of “meh?”) but it gets very addicting. Think you can figure out who will live and who will die? Or even better, can you figure out who the killer is (I figured it out right before his/her/their reveal, so I felt a little dumb). Give it a shot and let me know what you think!