Uninhabited (2010) Movie Review - Damp Castaway Ghost Story

Horror, Thriller | 93 min
  • Director: Bill Bennet
  • Actors: Geraldine Hakewill, Henry James
  • Writers: Bill Bennett
  • Country: Australia
  • Language: English
  • Parental: Implied Sexual Assault, Mild Violence, Some Implied Sexuality, Language, Bad Acting
  • Release Date: 22 Jun, 2011
  • Genres: Horror, Thriller
  • Horror, Thriller | 93 min

A young couple go to a remote and deserted coral island for a camping holiday only to find that the island is inhabited by a ghost seeking retribution for a past outrage.

Australia is a beautiful country. Home to some of the most outstanding flora and fauna on the planet. As well as a rich and diverse history and some of the nicest people in the world. Australia has also gifted us with a whole bevy of fantastic actors and films. Included among those are some absolute bonza horror movies. Classics such as The Loved Ones, The Babadook, Wolf Creek, and Lake Mungo all, immediately, spring to mind.

Unfortunately, Australia has also given the world some slightly more regrettable things. Enormous terrifying spiders immediately jump to mind, as does Mel Gibson. What will now forever stand out to me when I think of Australia, however. Is Bill Bennet’s attempt to undo all the goodwill the aforementioned country has built up. Introducing: the pseudo horror movie Uninhabited.

Where to Start?

I am genuinely struggling to know where to start with this review. There is so much to say about Uninhabited and not a lot of it is positive. This is one of those movies that really overwhelms you with its problems. I suppose we should kick things off by breaking down the plot a little.

Uninhabited follows young couple Beth (Geraldine Hakewill) and Harry (Henry James). The pair are attempting to get away from the hustle and bustle by visiting an uninhabited coral island. Within, literally, a couple of minutes. It becomes apparent that Beth and Harry are, perhaps, not as alone as they first thought. Waking up after a very sandy, clothed, love making session. They notice footprints in the sand. Naturally they put it down to something ridiculous and forget all about it.

Beth and Harry in Uninhabited

Human footprints on an uninhabited island? Probably a dingo, right?

What follows is over an hour of progressively more concerning developments. Each of which further suggesting that the island is not as uninhabited as they might like. Items are moved, underwear is left in trees. There is an incident with sea cucumbers because apparently that is terrifying. And important supplies go missing. Is there a rational explanation or is something otherworldly haunting the island?

So What is the Problem?

There is so much wrong with Uninhabited. From the acting to the cinematography. There isn’t a single element that shines outside of the location. The story is digestive biscuit bland and the element of suspense is non-existent. Any actual suspense is brutally murdered by a staggering amount of exposition and foreshadowing. I expect most viewers will predict the plot’s outcome within a few minutes. Characters are uninteresting and the vapid plot fails entirely to keep you engaged.

Despite being set in an absolutely glorious location. The island is gorgeous, the sea is bright blue, and there is plenty to work with here. It is all spoiled by some fairly average camera work. I have glanced at a couple of reviews of Uninhabited. I understand that my point of view seems to go against the norm. Despite this, I stand by it. The camera work is pretty poor.

Harry and Beth from Uninhabited

You will see Harry pulling this face a lot. I guess he is confused?

Lousy Cinematography and Tons of Soft Focus

There were certain scenes that reminded me of a poor man’s Walkabout. The overuse of variable focus really gets in the way of the movie. Be it slowly focusing in on scenery. Or suddenly dropping focus to transition to another shot. It all felt a little bit amateur. There are many noticeable differences between lighting in certain shots. Indicating that they were filmed at different times of the day. Or, perhaps, that the cameraman only had a loose grasp of how to adjust his equipment. Leading to an inefficiency in compensating for the lack of light entering the lens in tighter shots. This is pretty basic stuff that you can learn on a relatively cheap DSLR. The fact that it is noticeable here is not good.

A bad camera shot from Uninhabited

This is a genuine shot from the movie, not a pan, a static shot. It almost feels like Slow Cinema at times.

I suppose, updating this review in 2024, I should eat my own words a little regarding Lachlan Milne’s lacklustre cinematography as he has padded out his career quite a lot since the release of Uninhabited. Even managing to score cinematography credits on 4 episodes of Stranger Things. Good for him! I can only imagine he has grown since 2010 and improved significantly.

Acting Woes

This is, perhaps, low hanging fruit. Afterall, the two main actors have to carry the entirety of this movie alone. That doesn’t, however, alter the fact that the acting is, at times, absolutely terrible. Geraldine Hakewill is pretty believable, as Beth. I would definitely be interested in seeing some of her other work. It would be nice to see what she can do with a decent plot and competent co-stars.

Geraldine Hakewill as Beth from Uninhabited

I genuinely think Geraldine Hakewill does a pretty good job

On the other hand, Henry James, as Harry, is not so good. He is awkward and unnatural. He never seems to be comfortable in front of the camera. Maybe he is a model turned actor? I get the feeling he is out of his element here. Pretty much everything from his line delivery to his reactions are just bad. He is not a likeable character and it is very hard to empathise with him and his situation. Another big problem here is that there is zero chemistry between the main characters. That is compounded by the way they interact with each other.

Updating this review for 2024, it is little surprise that Henry James’s career has evaporated into the movie making ether. While Geraldine Hakewill has gone on to accrue many more acting credits. 

No Sense of Vulnerability

Uninhabited really lacks the sense of vulnerability that you would expect from a film of this type. Harry and Beth set up a veritable army base camp. Complete with satellite phone and gourmet cuisine. You never really feel as though they are in the middle of nowhere with only a tent to keep them safe. Harry, despite being composed of about 7 stone of pure skin and sinew. Roams around like he has lived in the jungle his entire life. He never seems at all intimidated by what is going on. If he isn’t worried, why should we be?

Harry and Beth in Uninhabited

Do revealing swimsuits add to a sense of vulnerability? Australians practically live in them.

The multiple clothed sex scenes actually contribute to the awkwardness between the couple. Nudity could have been filmed in such a way as to imply it without actually showing anything. It would have likely added to the intimacy of the situation. Along with highlighting the couple’s vulnerability. I really feel as though nudity has a place in voyeuristic horror like this, whether shown or implied.

Harry and Beth in Uninhabited

Beth and Harry’s base camp doesn’t exactly add to the sense of vulnerability.

A late-movie attempt to make the viewer think they have misjudged the narrative. Adds absolutely nothing to the plot and proves itself to be a red herring on the way to a disappointing final stanza. The movie finally wraps up in exactly the way you assume it will. Having never managed to deliver on its promising concept and location. Uninhabited just isn’t very scary and the lack of suspense really drags the movie down.

Should You Watch Uninhabited?

Honestly, probably not. Uninhabited is just not a very good movie. There isn’t anything to keep up the suspense, there is no real reason to fear for the main characters, and the island seems more like a paradise than a place to feel uneasy about. Acting ranges from okay to absolutely awful, scripting is awkward and unnatural, cinematography and direction is sub-standard and the plot is extremely boring.

You may want to stick with the movie until its long overdue end to see what happens but don’t expect anything particularly interesting. I imagine the gross amount of foreshadowing will give away the conclusion to the movie, for most people, within the first half an hour so don’t expect too much.

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