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September 2011

Uninhabited

cast: Geraldine Hakewell, Henry James, Tasia Zalar, Billy Milionis, and Bob Baines

director: Bill Bennett

84 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
G2 DVD Region 2

RATING: 6/10
review by Mark West

Uninhabited

A young couple, Beth (Geraldine Hakewill) - a marine biologist - and her partner Harry (Henry James), start a ten-day-holiday on an idyllic, presumed uninhabited island on the Great Barrier Reef. But it appears they're not alone - footprints appear on the beach, Beth's washing is hung up and someone films the couple sleeping with Beth's video camera. Discovering a shack, in the middle of the forest, they realise that there's a ghost on the island, a vengeful spirit named Coral who - whilst dying - was raped by seven men. As they try to cope with the increasingly spooky encounters, they run up against two shark poachers who decide to take advantage of the hapless couple.

As a film, especially a low-budget one, this is genuinely beautiful to watch. Director Bill Bennett and his cinematographer, Lachlan Milne, make full use of the environment, filming the ocean, the beach and the wildlife almost as if to make the coral island the third lead. Of the actors, Hakewill comes across well, very believable and quite charming, whilst James seems a bit stiffer, though they make an engaging screen couple. The direction is good, not being particularly showy, and never descending into the common low-budget handheld work that often replaces suspense and scares.

The initial build-up, when the viewer isn't quite sure what's going on, is very good with some moments being genuinely scary. This sense of menace is maintained, with good use of the soundtrack - eerie music and some startling sound effects - until the point when the couple encounter the poachers, Spiro (Billy Milionis) and Elias (Terry Siourounis). The viewer is immediately thrown off, thinking that it's going to be some kind of hillbilly massacre movie, then thrown back again when the ghost (played by newcomer Tasia Zalar) makes her presence felt once more.

Compounding the drop in suspense are the actions of the couple. Beth wants to leave, understandably, when they're filmed in the tent, but Harry decides that it's a game, being played by kids who are somehow hiding on the island, and they go after them, decking themselves out in charcoal camouflage - it's amusing, but it detracts from the danger they feel. Unfortunately, this then pulls you out of the film slightly and once you start thinking about things, more and more bits don't make sense.

How did the ghost figure out how to use a video camera or call a satellite phone? Why pick on innocent people, especially when there can't be that many people going to the island? Why does the man who drops them off at the start not realise what's going on, especially when he never seems to pick up any blokes for the return journey? I also imagine the "inspired on real events" tagline might be a bit fanciful too. As a ghost story, it doesn't really say or do anything new (and sometimes logic takes a back seat), but, on the plus side, it's an original location and the suspense scenes are well thought out and executed. On the whole, I'd say it was worth a watch.

There were no extras available on the screener that I had, which is a shame, a documentary showing how it was made would have been interesting.



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