Harper's Island (2009) - The DVD Edition

Genre(s): Drama / Horror / Mystery
Paramount || NR - 541 minutes - $42.99 || September 8, 2009
Reviewer: Tyler Thomas || Posted On: 2009-09-07


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Various
Writer(s): Ari Schlossberg (creator)
Cast: Elaine Cassidy, Christopher Gorham, Katie Cassidy, Cameron Richardson, Adam Campbell


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Select Episode Commentaries
  • 4 Featurettes
  • Webisodes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • On-Air Promos


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Widescreen (1.78)
  • English (Dolby Surround 5.1), English (Stereo Surround 2.0)
  • Subtitles: None

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.::THE FILM::.

I’ve decided to do something different for this review. Since “Harper’s Island” is a murder mystery show, I’ve decided to do two different wrap-ups for the show then talk about it more. The first one below contains zero spoilers and will give you an introduction to the mystery, while the second one will contain more details and a few early-on spoilers. Decide which you want to read shortly, as the murder mystery is about to begin...

NON-SPOILER REVIEW

Abby Mills (Elaine Cassidy) has been away from the island she grew up on, Harper’s Island, for many years after her mother was killed on a murder spree by John Wakefield. Her best friend Henry Dunn (Christopher Gorham) is getting married to Trish Wellington (Katie Cassidy) and has the wedding set on the island, and both bride and groom are bringing their friends along for the ride. Upon arrival by boat to the island, and one of Henry’s friends gone missing, they think nothing is wrong and continue with plans for the wedding.

That is, until strange things start happening on the island. Sheriff Charlie Mills (Jim Beaver) has a dark secret past that he’s kept hidden from his daughter Abby, and people start disappearing one-by-one from the island. There’s also a strange girl named Madison Allen (Cassandra Sawtell) who says cryptic things on the island and hears voices that is scaring some people. Is it true that Wakefield is indeed dead? Or is a copycat in the midst trying to finish what Wakefield started many years ago?

SPOILER REVIEW

Abby Mills is returning to the island where her mother was murdered along with others by a man named John Wakefield. Her father Charlie said that he killed Wakefield in a shootout, and that he is indeed buried. That comes into play later, don’t worry. Abby is returning to the island along with her best friend Henry who is marrying Trish. The bride and groom have brought about 20 or so of their friends along for the adventure to Harper’s Island, but Henry’s friend Ben goes missing right at the start. Of course, when you watch the episode, you’ll find out Ben’s fate. Let’s just say he’s a little “propelled” at the moment.

After arriving at the island, Abby is greeted by her long lost love Jimmy (C.J. Thomason) who left under disturbing terms. The group settles in at the hotel, but slowly notices that something is wrong with the island. Uncle Marty (Harry Hamlin) while walking down a path late at night gets caught under a bridge and is promptly “whapped” to death, and by “whapped” I mean his lower body is cut in half and to shreds. Two deaths in the first episode? Guess the phrase “one-by-one” really means that someone is going to die, at least one, every episode right? You betcha!

As the series continues, we learn more about the fate of John Wakefield, and also more about the great bride and groom. It turns out that Henry is heavily disliked by Trish’s family, as he used to live on this island as a fisherman but struck it big when he and Trish got into each other. Trish also has a few dark secrets of her own, as an ex of hers named Hunter (Victor Webster) visits the island in an attempt to win her back. He’s promptly met though with the barrel of a shotgun trap that may (or may not perhaps) been meant for him. With people dropping like flies, and even though no one really notices until halfway through the season, can the remaining survivors band together and fight off the copycat? Or is it possible Wakefield is still alive and well on the island?

This is a great show, there’s no denying it. I have always loved murder mysteries, and this one is no different. I watched the show when it debuted on CBS months and months ago and still loved it the second time around. My girlfriend Sam also watched it with me again, and she enjoyed it just the same. It’s a compelling mystery, but there are a few problems I have with the show that keep it from being perfect.

The fact that some of the characters live for longer than they should (Malcolm, Beth, etc) ticked me off to no end. There are so many useless characters that get killed off eventually that should have happened in the first episode it’s insane. I know that they need to give some back story to the characters, but some of them are so paper-thing that it’s boring as heck. Malcolm’s background is so boring I ended up nodding off every time he talked, and his character is boring. His friend Boothe’s eventual death was also so incredibly pointless and not-needed that I almost wanted to stop watching at that point the first-time around. I’m not going to lie, I honestly thought it was Boothe doing the murders since his death seemed accidental and didn’t think he died from it, but he does. Sorry, slight spoiler there, you should have expected that by now.

I’m not saying that all the characters are bad, and the finale is great and even though I managed to figure out what was going on in the world of “Harper’s Island”, it still gives you a great ride through murder and mystery for thirteen great episodes. In case you haven’t figured out by now, each of the episodes are entitled how the characters die (Whap, Splash, Sigh, etc), which was pretty damn cool if I do say so.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

**NOTE SPOILERS FOLLOW**

DISC 1

“Whap” Commentary by Jeffrey Bell, Ari Schlossberg, and Dan Shotz: Sadly none of the cast joins for this commentary, but the three main people behind this episode join forces for an informative one. They talk about the influences of Madison and her growth, as well as what the show was originally going to be titled.

Deleted Scenes (17 minutes): Each episode on this disc features some sort of either deleted or extended scene, but in all honesty there’s not much depth here. The quality is also sort of shoddy, as the video isn’t the best to look at. The extended scenes don’t add anything to the story or any revealing information, and the deleted scenes would have ruined the episodes if they had aired, so I’m somewhat glad you can see what was cut from the actual episode.

On-Air Promos (4 minutes): This is simply the promotions that ran before the show aired on CBS as well as during subsequent weeks. They are neat in seeing that after watching the brief series it really was an excellent broadcast. Other than that though there isn’t much here in terms of value.

DISC 2

“Sploosh” Commentary by Karim Zreik, Dean Chekvala, and Matt Barr: The co-executive producer, Sully, and JD join together for a much different tone for this commentary than the previous one. They point out the fact that this is the first death the characters see, as well as the fact that the mood changes for the show in this episode. It’s a funny commentary compared to the last one, and it should be listened to after you watch the episode in its entirety.

Deleted Scene (1 minute): Unlike the last disc, we only get one deleted scene and in fact it’s just an extended scene of one of the character’s death. There’s nothing here that really adds to the story similar to the other cut scenes; instead we are treated to the character’s death sequence in a much more gruesome fashion.

DISC 3

Harper’s Globe Webisodes (78 minutes): If you watched the show on TV you probably remember the promo for the “Harper’s Globe” on the internet that ran after the show concluded. Provided for you in full content, although for some stupid reason there’s no “play all” option so you have to select them manually, are all 16 episodes. Hosted by Robin and also featuring guest appearances by the cast, this is definitely worth watching if you enjoyed the show as much as I did. The websiodes go behind-the-scenes of some of the characters and show you a different side of the island through video uploads. In case you don’t recognize the hostess, it’s that popular “Lonelygirl15.”

DISC 4

“Splash” Commentary by Dan Shotz, Cameron Richardson, and Matt Barr: The co-executive producer, Sully, and Chloe are commentating on the final episode of which Chloe is alive. I’m disappointed that Cal didn’t join in for the commentary, as I don’t really get why Sully is here since he’s not that big in this episode, but anyways. Richardson is funny on this track, as she sounds the most awake from the bunch and because she’s absolutely gorgeous I recommend a listen on this track, as it does give some decent information about the episode.

“Sigh” Commentary by Jeffrey Bell, Dan Shotz, and Christopher Gorham: Co-executive producer, Henry, and another co-executive producer join together for the final episode of the show. Gorham is quite entertaining (as Richardson was) in this commentary, and jokes around about his role in the show and the nickname “emo killer” that was given to him. This is a funny, insightful, and entertaining commentary overall so I strongly suggest a listen.

Casting Harper’s Island (20 minutes): This takes an in-depth look at how the cast came to be and how the show came to be. It’s an interesting look at the casting that went on with the episodes, as well as some neat tidbits about how the characters knew when they were going to die and some that didn’t.

The Making of Harper’s Island (30 minutes): Your basic making-of feature that deals with the show, but this one is more insightful than others I’ve seen. It goes by episode and lets you see some of the cast getting ready for their make-up and also how some of the exciting shots were made. This is definitely worth while in terms of watching when you get some a free moment, or thirty of them.

Guess Who? (3 minutes): The cast jokes about the possibility of an accomplice that’s helping Wakefield kill everyone, but of course since we already know this to be true this feature doesn’t really amount to much.

The Grim Reaper (3 minutes): Karim is the subject of this feature, as he’s deemed the Grim Reaper since it’s him who basically lets everyone know if they’re going to make it to the next episode or not. Not terribly interesting or insightful, so you can probably skip this unless you just have to watch it.

Deleted Scene (1 minute): The only deleted scene we get here on the final disc is an intercourse scene between Henry and Trish that didn’t make it in the show because it is graphic (although no nudity entails).

I must say, that despite how many extras and the fact that most are great, I was really disappointed to see that we weren’t given a “here are the clues to who the killer is” segment or something along that line. It would sure have been nice to have seen all the little clues and hints the producers gave us along the way.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

I watched the show when it debuted on television on the HD channel of it, so I set my sights accordingly for the video quality. A good majority of the show looks great, as the island is a beautiful location with lush forests that are heavily detailed. The ocean itself looks phenomenal as well, as the ship scene in the first episode looks great. But then we come to the bad part, where a lot of the nighttime episodes have grain and noise in them, but not to the extent of where it’s distracting for your viewing. The forest sequences at night and also near the end don’t look as good as they did at the start, but there’s not a lot of difference if you don’t care about that sort of thing. All in all, it’s a great transfer but some work should have been done with the contrast on the night shots.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn’t going to be blowing up any shipyards anytime soon (joke), but it gets the job done properly. Dialogue is constant and the action sequences sound excellent although surround use is really limited. Even during the scenes where I should have heard surround sound like in the explosion sequences or the gunshot ones (of which there are numerous) they didn’t use surround at all for the most part. I did at times though hear characters from behind or off to the side, or hear noises from the forest, which was rather cool. There’s not that much wrong with this track, but the surround use could have been bumped up.



.::OVERALL::.

“Harper’s Island” got completely ripped off in its brief run on television, as the show was plagued by several removal’s from its time slot and weeks in between new episodes. This is still a phenomenal show that needs to be enjoyed by all, and newcomers as well as fans of the show will have tons of special features to go through. The video and audio are a little bit above average, but it doesn’t look as good as it did on the HD channel when it was on. Even so, this is still one murder-mystery show that needs to be visited, just be careful about going to the island for marriage. You never know if Wakefield will show up...