Harper's Island

TV review by
Will Wade, Common Sense Media
Harper's Island TV Poster Image
Unoriginal slasher show is far too gory for kids.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 11 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

In addition to revolving around the grim themes of murder and death, the show is filled with class resentments and simmering anger. For example, a working-class guy is about to marry a rich girl, and there's plenty of talk about the role of money in their relationship.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most of the characters are one-note stereotypes ("good girl," etc.). One woman is revisiting the island where she grew up after a long absence, leading to several emotional reunions and a few arguments with people she hasn't seen in years. A child seems to have an unnatural fixation with death.

Violence

Plenty of horror-film gore, muted only slightly to appear on television. For example, when a victim is being disemboweled, viewers see only his face -- but once he's clearly dead, the shot widens to show his bloody, dripping torso. There are also bar fights, some intense arguments, and lots of spooky imagery.

Sex

Characters are shown having sex, presumably naked and in bed -- though no sensitive body parts are visible. There's plenty of talk about sex and some suggestive comments. Female characters are sometimes shown in their underwear for no particular reason.

Language

Nothing bleeped, but audible language includes words like "damn," "hell," "ass," and "bastard."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of drinking -- in bars, at parties, and privately. The characters drink heavily and talk about whether they're drunk. Some characters also smoke cigars and pop pills.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 17 year old Written bykmichael97 November 28, 2009

good show

Im 12 and saw this show and iit is amazing! i love it but i found some of it disturbing. like a woman was lit on fire and burned to death. Another man was i thi... Continue reading
Adult Written bycallofduty5 July 2, 2011

Harper's Island

This slasher TV serie is very good. It has infrequent very strong gory violence. Some of the traps/death scenes might frighten young viewers. Sex and other stuf... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byACDude800 July 13, 2009

Meh.

This mystery series takes some time to get going since its early episodes are more slasher than mystery, but when the mystery kicks in during Episode 5, it... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 18, 2010

ok but scary and gory and sad

it was ok i saw it last year and it was pretty scary and the last few episiods were really sad and every episiod was gross this show really creeped me out but i... Continue reading

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?

TV details

For kids who love thrills

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