Uninhabited (2011)

Directed By: Bill Bennett
Written By: Bill Bennett
Starring: Geraldine Hakewill
  Henry James
  Tasia Zalar
  Bob Baines

A movie is a sum of it’s parts. Sometimes it can be slightly let down by shoddy make-up or poor continuity, sometimes afflicted with terrible editing or an intrusive, awkward score. The Uninhabited is brilliantly directed, features a tense, overbearing score and is genuinely scary at times… but… the acting is appalling. Significantly let down by an unbelievable “couple” in a central performance, The Uninhabited is a well-made failure.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the largest coral reefs and one of the seven wonders of the natural world, or so the film tells us in some foreboding title slates. “There are more than 600 islands. This is one of them…

…Based on actual events.”

Yep, they did it: “Based on actual events”. By the time the credits roll you’ll be infuriated by this statement, but initially it’s intriguing, especially if you know the plot.

The plot? A happy Australian couple take a ten day vacation on a remote island somewhere on the barrier reef, only to discover this uninhabited island has another occupant… the ghost of a girl who died there nearly 100 years ago. At first they notice footprints in the sand and hear noises in the woods, but as the weird happenings increase in intensity, the couple quickly realise they need to escape the island or their dream holiday will turn into their deathbed…

The premise behind The Uninhabited is a solid one, with decent potential to scare, excite and disturb. Producer / Writer / Director Bill Bennett does a decent job all round, but is sadly afflicted by some dire acting. Maybe he should’ve cast it too?

So, the positive stuff? The direction and soundtrack is exceptional, propelling forwards an otherwise pedestrian story and lacing ordinary scenes with a sense of dread and foreboding. Bennett does superbly well with a limited idea, although his expertise in direction cannot cover all the film’s obvious flaws, mostly his writing and his cast.

Firstly, the characters themselves are infuriatingly moronic, with their decisions so entirely idiotic you will struggle to sympathise with them. Acting like the pre-credits fodder in your average slasher flick, they are devoid of personality and act like absolute dickheads; splitting up, disbelieving blatant facts, splitting up, entering scary huts in the middle of the night, splitting up, not keeping vital equipment on them at all times – the Satellite Phone should’ve been glued to their faces the moment something creepy happened! – Oh, and splitting up. It doesn’t help that the script is littered with brainless lines like; “I want to sleep in the open tonight. I want to be able to see what’s going on”. What? Whilst you’re ASLEEP?! The film is swimming with stupid.

Frustratingly, despite Bennett’s script needing some serious work, the actors themselves also fail to compel. Geraldine Hakewill and Henry James are so utterly unconvincing as a couple that they actually seem like strangers meeting in a supermarket, delivering awkward and stilted conversation. I did not believe them for a single second. This is a shame, considering Hakewill gives an honest performance throughout. James does not, however, and he is horribly unbelievable and unlikeable throughout. He needed a machete in the face in the first ten minutes… but sadly he lasts a lot longer.

The Uninhabited is also genuinely scary at times, with some disturbing moments and an excellent less-is-more policy from our resident ghost Coral, played with quiet and threatening grace by newcomer Tasia Zalar. It works the fear factor on a number of levels, but this is almost exclusively because of Bennett’s direction and Peter Miller’s haunting score.

The Uninhabited has a brilliant premise, is exceptionally well directed but horribly let down by poor acting and some shitty dialogue. It is an infuriating and disappointing watch.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

14 Comments on “Uninhabited”

  1. MWeather says:

    Watched this with a group, and halfway through – so tired of seeing SUCH a lot of stupid – some were rooting for the death of the central characters. I got bored and wondered if there would be any dinosaurs on this dinosaur tour? Really liked the soundtrack, and some of the footage was gorgeous. But the “based on actual events” thing….really? Someone needs a slap for that one. We figured the actual event consisted of “A couple went on vacation to an island”. The end was spectacularly nonsensical, for the reason you mentioned.

    • Scullion says:

      I agree – the “Based on Actual Events” movies drive me insane. Wolf Creek is another example that claims it’s based on a true story but ends with everyone dying and no trace of their existence ever being seen again! The true story in that case was the first ten minutes: three friends go missing in the Australian outback. The Uninhabited goes down the same route – a couple go on holiday and die. By a 100 year old raped ghost? I bloody doubt it.

      Stupid film…

  2. MadThinker says:

    Whilst I totally agree with the general cynicism toward the “Based on Actual Events” element of the film, the “true” story is that the director spent some time on an island in the 70′s, he and some friends found a cabin (with grafitti), a grave, a journal and, one evening he and a friend had an “encounter” with something they believed to be a ghost. No one died.

    Unfortunately I can’t remember where I read this (possibly the official web site) and of course, I have no idea how true or not the actual events were, but this is why the film was given the odious pre-fix of “Based On….”

    • Scullion says:

      Thanks MadThinker – that’s really interesting!

      I find it doubly odd, however, that someone will declare their story is based on a true event, despite it really being based on a FRACTION of a true event. This film could’ve been about a group of teenagers going to a deserted island, finding an old hut, some graffiti, a journal, a grave and then being attacked by a horde of rape-happy aliens… and still have the “based on true events” tag.

      It is a tenuous, shameless marketing tool, that actually damages the credibility of a piece. Well, I think so anyway…

  3. Rebecca Moody says:

    so…i watched this last night…and i actually got distracted by the scarf i was knitting for a friend..true story huh???ive had more fun and thrills on fishing and camping trips with my family…seriously mate…now i have to go watch crime channel to get that stupid movie out of my head..

  4. angelite says:

    Actually I just wanted to point out something about the Wolf Creek comment: the boy actually did survive at the end. He was found by a family passing by in their motor home. He was blamed for the attacks.

  5. prerna says:

    not at all! it can’t be real. just a joke or something in middle of an ocean with a ghost. ha ha ha!

  6. Laura says:

    Just finished watching this 10 min ago. What a complete let down & that’s putting it mildly. The acting was atrocious and the story being “based on true events” is so utterly ridiculous that you will be left speechless at the end , and not in a good way. DON’T waste your money!!9

  7. Kathleen says:

    I found this googling, i think the director added this story with his story to make it a “true story” (the island in the movie is actually called Palmyra Atoll)
    For decades Palmyra has lingered in quiet isolation as an uninhabited, privately owned United States territory. There was a moment of notoriety back in the ’70s when a fugitive drug dealer sailed here from Hawaii. Worried that his own boat was barely seaworthy, he murdered an island-hopping couple that had stopped at the atoll and stole theirs before he was caught, a story that was turned into a best- selling book, And the Sea Will Tell, by Vince Bugliosi, and a TV movie.

    • PCP777 says:

      This was filmed on Palmyra or the story is supposed to take place there? And The Sea Will Tell was an awesome book. This movie?Not so much. Could have been great but not even close.

    • Kathleen says:

      It actually happened there! Not sure where the movie was filmed though.

  8. Angela says:

    Just watched this courtesy of Netflix and was looking to see if there was any info on the “based on true events”. I was drawn in by the story and cover pic but sad to say wish I hadn’t wasted the time. You are absolutely correct to say that the male lead was a complete let down as was the script. It was a shame since the acting and lines could have been so much more. Glad I didn’t pay to see it in the theatre, wished I would have read your review before I wasted the 1.5 hours.

  9. Roan says:

    Yeah. Me and my daughter watched this flick. We love a good “F” movie, and this one made it on the scale. It wasn’t in the top 10….or 30, but it had all the elements of a decent “F” flick.

    I couldn’t have written worse dialogue myself, but the fact that it was so terrible made it so damn good (in that don’t-expect-much-laugh-your-ass-off kind of way). I’ve never seen a movie critique nail a movie so well! My daughter finally said, “Man. These people are total douche bags.” And she ended with, “Are they gonna split up…..AGAIN?!” Really. It was worse than the girls falling down while Jason is chasing them……or white people (and I am white) staying in a haunted house.

    We are in agreement (kiddo and I) that this movie is not a waste of time. We rather enjoyed the “I want to sleep in the open” line. We actually hadn’t stopped laughing by the time they woke up in the next scene!

    I have no idea what true events this story could possibly be based on, unless the Director went to a remote island, or went to a remote island and got raped.

    All in all, good story line, we think. Terrible acting. What is up with the dude? I think when he cried in the cabin is about the time we decided he truly needed to die……and then he did! Yay! Bad dialogue, but so bad it’s good, you know? Like a pug is so ugly it’s cute. We wouldn’t watch it again. But, for a Friday night “F” flick – - it’ll serve.

  10. Moha says:

    I thought the guy was an idiot, but he didn’t deserve to die. It was so hard watching this movie, I got mad at their stupid decisions.. I also didn’t believe they were a real couple. The way they mentioned part of their lives and acted made their relationship seem unbalanced/not right to me.

    But after talking to my boyfriend (we watched it together), we have to take into account that they are a “newlywed couple”. Perhaps they dated for a few months then got married. It could’ve been their honeymoon? Maybe they were still in the process of getting accustomed to each other.

    The boyfriend also mentioned that she worked a lot. Maybe they lost connection and on this vacation, were picking back up where they left off and reconnecting.

    :) Let your imagination run wild.

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