Uninhabited (2010)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Bill Bennett Reviewer :
Writers Bill Bennett
Starring Geraldine Hakewill, Henry James
Genre Revenant
Tagline The Island will give up its secrets
15 second cap Beth and Harry find the natives are restless on a remote Barrier Reef Island


"If you decide to leave early call me, we can be here in five hours." - Jackson

Beth and Harry are a young couple after a holiday far from the maddening crowd. They are dropped off on a small tropical Island located in the Great Barrier reef for ten days of apparent isolation. The Island is meant to be deserted allowing them freedom to frolic, get the wild thing on, fish, and otherwise enjoy each other without worrying about the neighbours.

Almost immediately the couple discover footprints, their gear goes missing, Beth's knickers are scattered on a bush, and all manner of shenanigans are going down. Figuring someone else might be on the Island, Harry thinks the culprits might be teenagers; they explore and discover nothing and nobody. Naturally a second exploration turns up an old shack that wasn't there previously. And I'm thinking this isn't the love shack the B52s sung about. Beth and Harry's problems are only just getting started as they clearly haven't seen a horror movie in their entire lives. Beth does try to ring a friend to get out of Dodge but their satellite phone has gone missing. A tension laced movie ensues.

For some strange reason I had decided this movie was being released this year only to discover that naturally it had been available for a couple of years OS and was being released to DVD and BR in 2012 Downunder. Sucks to be us, though considering the locals aren't exactly falling over themselves to catch our dark genre movies it's probably the correct decision to roll the dice and see how the movie is received in the larger dark genre markets first.

Seems a lot of people are having problem with the "Inspired by actual events" title card thrown on as the starting credits rock and roll. Sorry have IQs dropped overseas, "inspired by" means nothing more than Bill Bennett took as a starting point an incident that happened up North on the Reef, mixed in some plot lines, and for good measure added a supernatural element to get dark genre fiends all hot and bothered. The movie isn't saying this is a factual documentary of what happened to a couple, it's not rocket science people pull the carrot out of your arse and settle in to be entertained. Bennett throws on a haunted house tale with a difference and lets her rock without being constrained by reality. Considering some folk think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is based on reality, I'm not even calling a penalty on Bennett's work here, the nitpickers should revert back to fleaing each other for kicks on route 666.

Bennett takes the revenant tale of of the house and onto a tropical Island

Spoilers ahoy kids, if you don't want your Uninhabited cherry popped then look away now or go to the next paragraph. Bennett takes the ghost story out of the haunted mansion and drops it kicking and screaming on a tropical Queensland Island, an approach that had me wiggling and giggling with delight. Think a sort of weird cross between The Blair Witch Marketing Project, that ironically many people thought actually happened, and The Haunting of Hill House. Even worse for those unable to suspend disbelief, hey get out of the horror aisle yo, a lot of the hoodoo goes down during the day, brave move by Bennett, from memory Ramsey Campbell is about the only other person to throw the supernatural into the stark light of day.

Bennett has this movie on a slow burn, especially during the first block when things move at a glacial speed, which works for the atmosphere and mystery he is slowly creating. The problem here is how do you take a tropical island in a major tourist destination and turn up the tension and make the sinister leer out of the forest. Bennett hits the track with a restless camera through the first block of the movie as strange things begin to happen. We get almost panoramic shots of the location, wind through the small forest on the Island, and a general eerie feeling that someone or something is watching our young couple. Bennett takes time out to show some plot foreshadowing, the stone fish for example, and to generally get the audience uneasy with the situation. Don't expect anything from The Evil Dead cannon of movie making, but there's a slight sense of unease going down. The crying heard in the night is pretty tense as we have no idea what it might signify or what it might foreshadow.

Regularly purveyors of dark movies might note that Beth and Harry summon the spirit during their search by calling to it unwittingly as they seek to find those responsible for their missing kit. This of course reflects a troupe of the sub-genre; the couple have raised an uneasy spirit and will be the subject of its manifestations.

During the second block of the movie Bennett falters somewhat in his delivery as Harry proves to be the perennial disbeliever that some haunted house tales seem to require. Like Micah in the original Paranormal Activity Harry doesn't believe that anything supernatural is going down even though the evidence is biting him on the bum, and like Micah he doesn't listen to his partner's demands to get out of Dodge till it's too late. I kind of got bored through the middle parts of the movie with this approach, especially when Bennett resorts to some cheap jump tactics in possible fear that nothing much is happening on screen. While the movie might be drifting somewhat, hint hit some dimly seen shapes in the forest, there was no need for the injection of a couple of Eastern European poachers to take the plot down a path that was best left untrodden.

Bennett re-captures his tension in the final block of the movie as the full mystery is presented to get us rocking with the revenant aspect. I'm not about to give away details here, but I wasn't expecting the resolution that went down, definitely plenty of room for a sequel. Guess end of movie I was pretty satisfied with my time spent in Country.

Where Bennett has things rocking is in presenting a revenant yarn that has more in common with J-Horror's attitude of trying to unnerve the audience rather than shock them into submission with visual shenanigans. There's nothing much in the way of gore and no grand scene that involves CGI fireworks inserted to simply have tweens leaping about in feigned fear. Bennett is working for the main part slowly and surely to create an atmosphere of unease and malice. I applaud his approach that respects the audience and doesn't give way to the sort of gimmicks that have the part time horror crowd clambering for "gnarly deaths". Guess this doesn't work for some folk as it doesn't resolve to being "plastic" and shallow.

Also not making much of an impact is the T&A. There's plenty of shoots of our two leads in their swim ware for the voyeurs in the audience but none of the expected boobs you would expect. Harry even suggests skinny dipping at one stage but the idea goes nowhere unfortunately. Guess the age of Ozploitation is well and truly gone then, R.I.P we salute you.

About the only major weakness of this movie is the two leads who are strictly amateur theatrical troupe to be honest. Geraldine Hakewill (Beth) goes at it wide eyed and innocent, she sure looks good in a bikini, but isn't putting much feeling into her role. I was somewhat disappointed as she started well but couldn't nail the emoting requirement. Henry James (Harry) throws on more wood than you could expect to use on an open fire during a sub-zero winter night. Might be early days for both Actors, though they should jettison these performances from their resumes post haste, and improvement might be possible with further roles. Neither Actor is strong enough at the moment for another lead role however.

Peter Miller provided a schizophrenic score that had me wondering if he didn't simply cobble together stuff he had laying around the studio. We get guitar orientated movements, heavy use of drum in parts, some subdued techno, and to top it off some didgeridoo which I guess is meant to be a certain person's theme. I was left scratching my head, this wasn't the consistent score needed for a haunted house yarn, and at stages confused the visuals the audience are watching.

Its bad enough keeping up with new release Downunder dark genre releases without previous movies suddenly becoming available. Note to the Distributors, get those movies happening ASAP else people will either download, not recommended, or import from other regions. I was actually rocking to Uninhabited, love me a ghost story, and overall had a good time even with the odd fault in the movie. I wasn't expecting the ending, horror-dar went down folks, and thought Bennett did an admirable job of taking the genre from its mist shrouded moors to tropical Queensland. If you dig revenant yarns then this movie is well worth dialling into kids, Bennet isn't pulling too many sleights of hands. Of course the question remains, how does a hundred year old ghost know about modern technology? I don't believe there are remedial courses on telecommunications in the twilight zone.

If after a copy then you will need to hit either a half decent retail outlet, JB HiFi comes to mind, or one of the online sellers. I scored my copy via ezydvd.com. The movie is being distributed Downunder by the folk at Pinnacle Films who are building themselves a nice dark genre catalogue that should have most dark genre devotees checking out the company. Pleased to see another Aussie company dedicating themselves to not only bringing the best of foreign dark genre releases but also not forgetting the local scene.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Solid revenant yarn let down by the acting and score