WHEN GOOD TIMES GO BAD
For a bloody good time, Guy Davis recommends a trip to Harper’s Island, now showing on Ten.
RATED M CAST Christopher Gorham, Elaine Cassidy, Richard Burgi, Cameron Richardson SUMMARY No stranger to beautiful sets, Ugly Betty’s Christopher Gorham anticipates trouble in this particular paradise – think of it as Scream gets Lost.
TV is getting bloodier, there’s no doubt about that. The gore and gruesomeness on your average episode of CSI or Bones takes things to a graphic new level, and don’t even get me started on what you’ll see when you catch an episode of True Blood or Dexter.
But Harper’s Island, the 13-part whodunit currently airing on Ten, adds a new element to the mix. There have been murder mysteries on TV before, of course, but this might be one of the fi rst shows to use the tried-and-true slasher-movie formula on the small screen.
Anyone who’s seen a Friday the 13th movie – c’mon, admit it, you’ve snuck a peek – knows how this formula operates: take a bunch of young people, preferably good-looking, and stick them in an isolated location. Add a spooky local legend and a red herring or two as a diversion. Then throw in a mysterious maniac with homicidal intentions towards your group of hot young things. And let the good times roll!
While Harper’s Island isn’t quite as bloody as many of the movies that appear to have inspired it, it still has its fair share of the red stuff . But the bumping-off of its cast of characters is the main similarity here.
The story begins with Henry ( Christopher Gorham) and Trish ( Katie Cassidy) holding their wedding on the remote and seemingly idyllic island of the title. They’ve brought a small group of their friends along for the big day, even though the place has a past: seven years earlier, six people were brutally killed there.
Of course, as soon as the passengers step off the ferry, the carnage begins again. And
As hooks go, that’s not bad. And as shows go, Harper’s Island isn’t too bad, either. It’s atmospheric, with the island providing a suitably beautiful but forbidding backdrop. The characters have just enough dimension each episode promises another death until the numbers are reduced by the fi nal episode to the last person standing and the murderer. and diversity to make you hope some survive and some meet their maker sooner than others.
And it’s sharp enough to distract you with bits of business like the death of one character’s mother during the fi rst series of murders seven years earlier, or the possibility that one or more supporting character has a nasty temper.
Considering that most of the actors are basically there to meet a grisly demise, the acting is surprisingly capable. Likeable Ugly Betty star Gorham is an appealing lead, and fresh faces like Cassidy, C. J. Thomason and Cameron Richardson all do well. The standout, however, is Elaine Cassidy, who plays the wounded but feisty Abby.
Don’t get too attached to anyone, though. In the space of a few months, most of them will be history. But wondering who’ll make the cut on Harper’s Island – and who’ll simply be cut – is the fun of this guilty pleasure of a program.
Bottoms up: The celebrations of Henry ( Christopher Gorham, centre) and his wedding party are disrupted; inset, Chloe ( Cameron Richardson) comes face to face with a killer.