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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this gory murder mystery series -- in which one character is killed per episode until the murderer is finaly revealed -- has a lot in common with big-screen slasher flicks and is only slightly toned down for television. It's bloody and violent (victims are disemboweled and more), there's plenty of drinking and sex, and the show has a pervasive feeling of gloom. It's not meant for younger viewers, and any kids who do watch will likely be scared silly.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A festive wedding week on a secluded resort island goes haywire when a vicious killer begins to eliminate the guests, one gory murder at a time. Who's behind the deaths? Is it the rich father, trying to scuttle his daughter's impending union to working-class Henry Dunn (Christopher Gorham)? Or perhaps the bride's ex boyfriend, angry after their emotional breakup? And what about John Wakefield, the deranged maniac who went on a homicidal rampage seven years ago -- is he really dead? With a new murder in every episode, the list of victims gets longer as the roster of potential murderers is narrowed down.
Is it any good?
HARPER'S ISLAND is the kind of show that a second-year film student might deliver. It's competently done; that is, the scenes are set up efficiently, the atmosphere of gloom and spookiness comes through clearly, and the actors deliver the generic emotions required by their clichhd roles and the sometimes-stiff script.
But don't expect to see anything original. Just about everything here seems like a retread of so many tired slasher film plots. There's a scary backstory in the Wakefield killings. There are ominous -- and obvious -- tensions between the working class townies and the wealthy members of the wedding party (AKA the pool of potential victims). And the characters are completely generic, from the good girl to the flirt to the brooding loner and the creepy kid. The murders are convoluted, gory, and sometimes a bit pointless. Why bother with an especially clever death when the victim, tied to the bottom of a boat, is never found and never missed? That's a lot of work for this mysterious killer and does little to advance the plot. The show's only "value" is to shock viewers, but anyone watching has almost certainly seen it all before.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this show is different from (and similar to) big-screen slasher tales. What parts are toned down for television?
Do you think the changes detract from the story, or could today's extremely violent horror genre benefit from the "less-is-more" treatment used here?
What's the impact of seeing violent images in the media?
For kids who love thrills
Our editors recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.