UK Release date: Out now
Director: Bill Bennett
Starring: Geraldine Hakewill, Bob Baines, Tasia Zalar, Billy Millionis, Henry James
Running time: 93 mins
Reviewer: Adam Wing
The Great Barrier Reef stretches for over 1600 miles off the Northeast coast of Australia; it’s the world’s largest coral reef and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. There are more than 600 islands in all, and Bill Bennett’s Uninhabited is set on one of them. A young couple go to a remote and deserted coral island for a camping holiday, only to find that a ghost seeking retribution for a past outrage has come back to haunt them.
Beth (Geraldine Hakewill) and her dim-witted boyfriend Harry (Henry James) arrive on the ‘deserted’ island for a short break, and before you can say, “this is a clichéd horror movie isn’t it?” they discover they’re not alone, because it wouldn’t be much of a horror movie if they were. Strange occurrences threaten to disrupt their peaceful getaway - footprints in the sand leading nowhere, old bones that suggest indigenous life, and the terrifying discovery that somebody has hung Beth’s washing out to dry.
Harry is reluctant to believe at first, but he does make rather funky wind chimes out of the bones and there’s a good chance he was relieved that someone had done the washing for him. After a laborious set up, a serious lack of tension and zero chemistry between the two leads, Harry and Beth conclude that the bizarre incidents are most likely the result of kids trying to spook them. This doesn’t terrify them though (have they not seen Eden Lake?), and its pretty obvious from the start that they don’t watch horror movies back home, in fact I’d be very surprised if Harry made it past pre-school.
To be fair to Beth, she seems like an intelligent girl. A little too intelligent perhaps, except when it comes to spotting boyfriend potential. Hakewill remains a likeable screen presence, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s easy on the eye. Harry on the other hand, well he’s a bit thick really, and Henry James struggles with any emotion beyond merciless confusion. Even when Beth discovers video footage of Harry sleeping on their camera, he passes it off as an ‘overreaction’, blaming the kids for taking the joke too far. Instead of fleeing for his life, he convinces Beth to turn it into a game, encouraging her to wear face paint while they hunt the perpetrators down. Have to be honest here, I kind of lost respect for Beth at this point.
Uninhabited takes an upward turn when a couple of non-English strangers arrive on the island, but any sense of curiosity is short lived. Bill Bennett, who wrote, direct and produced this listless thriller, seems obliged to stay stranded, ensuring the faint whiff of chills, thrills and tension are kept at bay. Nothing of note actually happens at all, even the pleasing cinematography loses its appeal after a while. It’s not until an hour in that the script sparks to life, with Beth making a startling discovery. Not that Harry is blessed with the intelligence of a garden gnome, that would be too much to ask, instead she discovers an island journal, abandoned in a nearby hut many moons before.
Bennett does attempt to build tension in the final act, but his half-hearted scares rarely succeed. It doesn’t help of course that we have zero compassion for Harry, though the latter scenes involving Beth are a little more suspenseful. It’s all a little too late though, and the twist in the tale can be seen a mile off, unless your name is Harry and you’re punching well above your weight. At the end of the day, Uninhabited is the perfect title for a horror movie that has nothing new to say. A film in which nothing happens until the final act, and the revelations that follow are clearly signposted throughout.
An emotionless entity with no redeeming qualities - not Harry, this time I was talking about the film. Dull, devoid of life and truly terrifying… the thought of sitting through Bill Bennett’s pedestrian thriller again, that is.