Screen Squinty’s “Uninhabited” Review.

Film: Uninhabited.
Directed by: Bill Bennett.
Released:2010.
Running Time: 93 min.

Uninhabited is a an Australian Horror Film about a young couple, Beth and Harry, who decide to have a vacation on an isolated island on the Great Barrier Reef and while there, are haunted by a vengeful force.

There is a frustrating trend in cinema now a days where you get some beautifully wrought films where you can tell that a great deal of care and attention is going into them, but only in one aspect of the film, leaving other aspects, necessary ones, like a flat tire that could have made for an otherwise smooth ride, and this movie is a prime example.

The focus, and thus the strength in this movie are the visuals. There is this almost too beautiful super-realism to it, a sense of texture that a spectator can almost feel with their eyeballs; the sheen, heave, and ripples of water, the grit of sand on the bodies of the two protagonists as they embrace on the beach, the deadly rough edges of a stone fish, the drips of water as one of the protagonists take an early morning dip in the cooling shallows. It adds a layer of visual experience to the movie that makes spectators almost feel the sand down their shorts.

The film also deserves credit for knowing how to use angle, close ups, and perspective shots in this film. There is also this trend in films from time to time where the creators get a little to enamored of a particular type of shot and often it is used in a way that does not work well with the plot (for example a pointless pan across in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, used where nothing of any great tension or obvious oddity is happening, which is one of the reason’s filmmakers normally use the method, to heighten these moments), this is something that the movie fortunately doesn’t do. The low angle first person shot of Harry as he looks up at the attacker who struck him with the gun, the use of in and out of focus, and the occasional over exposure give a sense of the surreal state of in and out of consciousness that Harry is experiencing.

It’s not just camera though, the soundtrack highlights the sense of location while at the same time, winding the tension in the spectators more successfully than the narrative itself is in presenting the supernatural malevolence that haunts the island. It provides an auditory flavor that is beautiful and eerie at the same time without being intrusive. Sound in this film is properly used as a narrative aide, and not just there despite the narrative.

Despite these positive qualities, the weakness in this film lies in the narrative.

The transitions between these beautiful visuals to the actual plot happening (when it eventually does) gives a sense as if someone were filming an IMAX beach documentary and some semblance of a story wanders drunkenly onto set from time to time, reminding the viewer “oh yeah, I am watching a movie.” The transitions between these moments are jarring and weaken the experience of the film.

Said drunken narrative itself is a lazily put together ghost story with the revelation of the reality of the ghost to the characters shoe horned in with an exceedingly weak-ass plot device. The two leads played by Geraldine Hakewell and Henry James, are portrayed well enough, particularly Hakewell as Beth, but all you really know about them is that they are in wuv and on vacation, with shallow dialogue that reveals practically nothing about themselves, except that one of them is a marine biologist, and that’s it. There is nothing character-wise to hold on to in this film and it makes it hard for spectators to empathize with them as they have no internal conflict.

The ghost itself has an overused motivation of blind vengeance, and is just as two dimensional as the protagonists. There is no relationship between the ghost and her victims, other than the fact that one of them has a generalized trait, that there is a man on the island, which incites her actions. Her back story is too rushed and clichéd, and other then a brief moment where Beth feels a sympathy for the woman and how she died, there is nothing between the two women that fleshes out the ghost from the perspective of the victims, or vice versa. This is echoed in the conclusion of the narrative, as Beth’s fate leaves a groan and eye roll at how freakin’ unimaginative and nonsensical (in a bad, lazy way) it is within the established narrative – what there is of it.

This movie was frustrating to watch because of all this amazing visual detail and excellent use of sound, but the narrative in contrast was so bad, that it leaves one feeling unfulfilled against the promise that the technical side of things makes, but doesn’t match with story-wise. It’s a shame because if the narrative had even been half way better than it is, this would have been one of the better contemporary horror movies out there.

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