(director/writer: Kitty Green; screenwriter: Oscar Redding; cinematographer: Michael Latham; editor: Kasra Rassoulzadegan; music: Jed Palmer; cast: Julia Garner (Hanna), Jessica Henwick (Liv), Hugo Weaving (Billy), Bree Bain (Office Woman), Toby Wallace (Matty), Daniel Henshall (Dolly), Ursula Yovich (Carol), James Frecheville (Teeth), Herbert Nordrum (Torsten), Baykali Ganambarr (Tommy); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Iain Canning, Kath Shelper, Emile Sherman, Liz Watts; Neon; 2023-Australia/UK)

“Unsettling Australian Outback feminist thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Aussie filmmaker Kitty Green (“The Assistant”/”Casting Jon Benet”) is the writer-director of this unsettling Australian Outback feminist thriller. It’s co-written by Oscar Redding. This fictionalized story was inspired by a documentary in 2016 called Hotel Coolgardie, where the tourist bar maids were two Finnish girls on holiday.

Two college coed backpackers, Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick), are Americans who leave Canada to continue their holiday adventure in the Australian Outback. When they run out of money they find temp work at the seedy Royal Hotel pub, replacing two Brit girls who were more suitable to handle the rough clientele. The hotel is located in a remote mining town, with few women, where the pub patrons are revolting men who are heavy drinkers and sexually crude. There’s a bad mix of horny miners and local drunks to contend with.

The bad-tempered dangerous bar owner, Billy (Hugo Weaving), is a drunk, who shouts instead of speaking normally. His taciturn partner, Carol (
Ursula Yovich), tries to control his drinking and must always remind him to pay the lady bar maids.

The vulnerable girls are in an ugly scene that is tense, as we expect there will be trouble at every turn. Though the looser Liv is better suited for handling the ruffians than the uptight Hanna, it’s still scary for both.

Green keeps things gripping in this slow-burn sort of a horror film without the usual scares. I found the story too unpleasant to say I liked it rather than just admired it.

It played at the Toronto Film Festival

The Royal Hotel
REVIEWED ON 10/11/2023  GRADE: B-