In Agatha Christie‘s 1939 novel Ten Little Niggers, 10 murderers are invited to an island (Nigger Island if you’re asking — I bet property prices are through the roof there) where they are killed one by one by a mystery assailant. Of course in today’s politically correct times you can’t call murder victims niggers, you have to call them "African-Americans". Only you can’t call them African-Americans because they changed the title to 10 Little Indians. Only you can’t call them Indians, you have to call them "Native Americans”. Anyway, it’s a classic of the genre, sold over 100 million copies and has been subject to numerous adaptations and remakes. Harper’s Island is something of a tribute to Christie’s genius, numerous slasher films and quite possibly Celebrity Love Island. How can it fail?
"Abby hasn’t been so big on Harper’s Island ever since her mother was murdered and strung up on a tree along with five other unfortunate bastards seven years previously by crazyman John Wakefield."
Abby Mills (Irish actress Elaine Cassidy channeling Neve Campbell in Scream) is returning home to Harper’s Island for the wedding of her childhood friend Henry (Christopher Gorham) to foxy heiress Trish (Katie Cassidy). Abby hasn’t been so big on Harper’s Island ever since her mother was murdered and strung up on a tree branch along with five other unfortunate bastards seven years previously by crazyman John Wakefield. But it’s her best friend’s wedding – what a fantastic opportunity to leave the past behind, reconcile with her father Charlie (Jim Beaver) and just get on with the rest of her life.
“Abby flirts with ex borefriend; oddball infant Madison tortures snails and bond with Henry’s weird goth brother J.D. But which of them is the murderer?.”
The problem with that admittedly laudable idea is that THERE’S ONLY A FRICKIN’ MURDERER loose on the island murdering. It’s almost as if murdering murderer John Wakefield has returned. But how could that be? Charlie Mills shot and killed him seven years ago. Or did he? Dude, I’m telling you – he’s buried on the island1. Or is he?
While you ponder that, numerous subplots keep the narrative going. Thomas Wellington (Richard Burgi), father of the bride and real estate mogul tries his best to stop his daughter from marrying the pleb; douchebag best man Sully (Matt Barr) tries to steal animatronic Barbie doll Chloe (Cameron Richardson) from her gimpy British borefriend Cal (Adam Campbell); Abby flirts with ex borefriend Jimmy (C.J. Thomason); oddball infant Madison (Cassandra Sawtell) tortures snails and bonds with Henry’s weird goth brother J.D. But which of them is the murderer?
"Wellington get a headspade to the skull; Richard gets frickin’ lickin’ harpooned. Tenacious survivors, an impressively sadistic big bad and annoying characters getting summary justice in the form of their hideous slapstick deaths."
Aerial Telly knows but isn’t telling. What he will say is that this is a very enjoyable, taut, pacy chiller that works its way through standard horror conventions with reverence and a wicked sense of humour. The deaths are memorable. Cousin Ben gets sliced and diced by the ship’s propeller; Wellington get a headspade2 to the skull; Richard gets frickin’ lickin’ harpooned. Tenacious survivors, an impressively sadistic Big Bad and annoying characters getting summary justice in the form of their hideous slapstick deaths.
Agatha Christie would be proud. The daft racist.
The best thing about it: The introduction into popular consciousness of the headspade.
The worst thing about it: It could have done with more snail torture.
The verdict on Harper’s Island: The most dangerous island life since Lost.
Marks out of 10: 7.5
1 Yes that makes all kinds of sense – I bet that went down well with the victims’ relatives
2 The heaviest instrument used when cutting up a whale. Don’t get telling me you don’t learn anything in slasher flicks