Harper’s Island Review: Wedding Knells

September 3, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

HARPER’S ISLAND: Sunday 6th September, BBC3, 9pm Alert Me

Welcome to Harper’s Island – a quiet settlement off the coast of Seattle, blighted by the memory of six murders that happened there seven years ago.

But a nice place to throw a kick-ass wedding.

That’s what Trish and Henry have done, taking 25 of their nearest and dearest to celebrate their nuptials on the remote island. Little do they know another murderous psychopath is on the rampage, and is going to off each of their wedding party one by one in delightfully grisly fashion over the series’ course.

It’s a modern take on the whodunit, very much in the style of Murder She Wrote with all the eavesdropping, conveniently placed plot twists and meddling so-and-sos. From the off it makes no apology for being so knowingly tongue-in-cheek, and doesn’t pretend to be clever, which is why it’s so charming.

Our central character is Abby, whose mother was one of those killed on the island. She’s returning to Harper’s for the first time in a while (as far as we can gather), and she’s there for more than the free booze. The show is tantalising like that. It doesn’t whore itself out in one go, so there’s enough to speculate about for 13 weeks.

There are plenty of frowny sideway glances between the 25 characters, hinting at strained relationships and tensions that promise to build. Slowly, and not at all subtly, everyone in the party is revealed to having a motive.

While those developments are kept under wraps, amusingly it’s got that clunky dialogue in which every line uttered has a function, an obvious function, going like: “What will your boyfriend in Seattle say?? – So we’ve established she’s got a boyfriend, who’s in Seattle, and that he’s wouldn’t be very happy if he knew what she was up to. No-one talks like that!

The characters are as transparent as the dialogue as well, ticking every demographic box: there’s Mad Uncle “call me? Marty, the brooding Father of the Bride, the blonde flirt, the brunette thinker, the fat guy, the black guy…

You can see the mechanisms working, but as long as you’re in on the joke, it doesn’t spoil the show. It likes to thrill, rolling out the jumpy moments courtesy of a score as stabby as the deranged killer.

It’s sure to have its critics, but if you’re willing to embrace Harper’s Island for its silliness, you’re in for a giggle.

Proper Sunday evening trash TV.

Leonie Mercedes