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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 horror crackers. 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.
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 Hakewell) 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.
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?
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 terrible 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 my point. The camera work is pretty poor.
Shots trail off focusing on irrelevant scenery adding nothing to the movie. Soft focus is used to a level that would make the average David Hamilton fan blush. Jarring close ups of character’s faces attack you every few minutes. And inconsistent lighting pollutes the entire film. Whether you want to blame this on the cinematographer. Or, perhaps, an inexperienced director is up to you. It is usually the director that decides the movie’s vision. It is their job to set up shots so your answer might lie there.
There are scenes where characters are chatting in the blackness of night time. When suddenly, without warning, we are treated to a shot of what looks like the dawn. Only to then be thrown back into the dark of night. It is quite jarring.
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 very 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.
Some scenes are framed terribly. It is almost as if, at times, the camera was placed on the ground. I am all for strange, abstract, techniques. But when something doesn’t work it doesn’t work. Why some of the shots were left in the final cut I have no clue. This is all the more obvious when you consider that the majority of the shots have the characters framed dead centre. When it comes to subject shots, there is a noticeable lack of variance.
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 Hakewell 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.
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. We really need to engage with this couple. They are the driving force behind the story. But it is hard to believe that they even know each other, let alone that they are a couple.
Harry constantly seems awkward and uncomfortable when touching Beth. He prefers to place a bro arm around her shoulders rather than embracing her as though they are in love. Dialogue between the characters is, at times, incredibly awkward. Their interactions manage to sound both unscripted and overly scripted at the same time.
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?
I assume the director wanted to keep the the film suitable for young teens so there is no nudity. This is understandable, of course. But I actually feel like it is to the movie’s detriment. It’s hard to believe a young couple would spend their entire time on an uninhabited island fully clothed.
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.
On paper, Uninhabited sounds like a pretty great concept for a horror movie. A couple visit a supposedly uninhabited island only to find out they are not so alone. It writes itself! You can almost feel the suspense before you start watching. The problem is, everything that happens to Harry and Beth is drip fed in so slowly. That any sense of suspense is completely drowned. There is a ton of exposition and foreshadowing. This makes the things that happen to the couple seem insignificant. Nothing feels particularly threatening and the stupidity of the characters will have you rolling your eyes.
There are a number of scenes that have the potential to creep the viewer out. But nothing comes of them. Night time scenes should be absolutely terrifying given the imposing dark and the location. But they prove to be false flag after false flag.
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.
There are so many better Aussie horror movies than this. Click the link to take a look at a few. I will be adding more to the site all the time. If you want my suggestion. Check out the ghost story Lake Mungo or Christmas Slasher Better Watch Out. If you want something a bit more sadistic. Then why not take a look at our review of The Loved Ones or Social Media themed horror Sissy? Hell, if it’s bad Aussie horror your like. Then Outback is a better shout that this. Either way, there are much better options than Uninhabited.
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.
Perhaps if you go in not expecting too much, this may be a good way to kill an hour and a half. There are far better Australian horror movies, however, and far better isolation themed horror movies to boot. You are probably just as well leaving Harry and Beth on their island alone and visiting some other, more interesting, destination yourself.