Harper's Island -- is any one else watching this one?? This new mystery/horror show probably qualifies as "just" a time filler, designed with plenty of gore and thrills to snag the passing channel-hopper... And since many loyal viewers are still surviving in a haze of homesickness for shows on sabbatical, Harper's Island might just be a decent little stand-in for a while. Sure, it's no Lost... but it is located on a freaky-ass island, with plenty of weird phenomenon taking place amidst mysterious fog... It's no Bones, but it does have plenty of Goo-Formally-Known-as-Human and dismembered corpses to offer, two of that show's particular specialties... Dollhouse it is not either, but there is the highly dominate theme of the forgotten, unknown past fighting to be reconciled with the present. A pretty good little cocktail of elements so far, yes?
Like I said, this show doesn't pull any punches in its quest to captivate viewers, and the more faint-hearted among my readers might justly wish to take warning of that fact. The pilot episode opens with the cheerful sight of a man strapped under a boat's propeller as it lies anchored in harbor, the breathing mask over his face postponing his death up to the very moment that the motor whirrs to dreadful life. Yes dear viewer, that would indeed qualify as a Harbinger of Things to Come.
But if you have a strong stomach, or a barf bag in hand, it is hugely entertaining, driven by a genre that has been going strong ever since Le Manoir Du Diable and Nosferatu first chilled the bones of flapper and farmer alike. And this show seems fully aware of the tools of the tradition, borrowing elements from the whole range of sources. The Gothic mansion, the serial killer, the spooky child with a link to the spirit world, the young woman tortured by a mysteriously tragic past, even the oblivious blond wandering out into the forest in search of her missing lapdog... all are tied neatly together here, along with a dozen or so others too. I'll admit I was cynical at first, laughing at the overwrought music and the sinister eye patch on the taxi driver... but by the second or third episode I was more than hooked. And thus far, the plot and narrative have been tidy and closely woven, unraveling slowly almost as a long, beautifully detailed film presented week by week. True, it's "slowly unraveling" amongst a catastrophic and quickly growing death count, but its pace is measured and detailed none the less. I, for one, am fascinated.
That isn't to say that there aren't moments when I realize full well that I'm being played. I recognize that it's awfully convenient for the disfigured deputy to be mistaken for the murderer, and to act like the murderer, and then to have the murderer's journal, but yet not be him... and then to die at the hand of the actual murderer mere moments after handing that journal over to the Sheriff. Yet, after the trauma Lost put poor mistreated Logic through over the last couple of seasons, you can't blame me for turning a blind eye at far less heinous abuses. And by and large, the show has been guilty of relatively few of them so far. It helps that most of the characters are decent actors... except for the majority of the silly little society girls. But then, I guess it's hard to show even potentially legitimate acting skills when you're impersonating a stock character rather than a real one, so I'm willing to cut them a little slack and gaze accusingly towards the writers on that one instead.
My current amusement, now that I'm caught up on all the existing episodes and am waiting enthusiastically for the new one this weekend, is trying to guess just who all will manage to survive the next five weeks of mayhem. It's a tough call, I can tell you, especially given the reckless abandon with which they have already disposed of so many seemingly pivotal characters. But I'm banking on Abby, Jimmy, Henry, Chloe and her Englishman, and little Madison. Abby because, duh, she's the heroine; Jimmy because somebody needs to be around at the end to make Abby happy; Henry because he's pure of heart and all that; Chloe and the Englishman because they have impressively good chemistry and provide what few moments of levity we have; and Madison because I don't think even the Harper's Island writers will be brave (/twisted) enough to kill off a little girl. The rest are all probably doomed. (duh Duh DUH!!!)
If you're watching, let me know who you think will survive! And if you're not, and typically enjoy a good little horror flick or two, be sure to hop the boat to Harper's Island! After your shattered nerves regroup, you'll really enjoy the ride.
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