Of all the regulars at the bar, Hanna forms an unlikely friendship with Matty (Toby Wallace), whose kind smile seems to differentiate him from the others. Matty takes Liv and Hanna to a place where they can swim (not easy to find in the Australian winter), and it provides one of the few tender moments in the film as the trio grooves to Kylie Mingoue’s “The Loco-Motion.” Green is so good at exploring vulnerability and softness, mixing that with steadily escalating tension to a nauseating degree, creating a breathless experience by merging these two very different worlds together.
Green’s two narrative features appear very different on the surface, particularly in pacing and tone, but both are remarkably similar, yet distinct. Green’s previous feature “The Assistant” follows an assistant (also Garner) to a mogul in the entertainment industry. It’s a much slower, more methodical film, but it also deals with how women feel in the presence of powerful men, and how those men exploit situations to their benefit as their positions of power and strength allow them to feel as if they can do anything. “The Royal Hotel” deals with the same themes, amping them up to the extreme — perhaps if Alex Garland hadn’t called his horror film “Men” last year, Green would have used that title for “The Royal Hotel.”
As the horrors of “The Royal Hotel” unfold, the film shifts from a terse thriller into a full-on horror, assisted by appropriately and effectively eerie cinematography from Michael Latham. The last 15 minutes are practically unbearable, heart-pounding scenes, anchored by Garner’s work as Hanna, who can no longer bear these increasingly violent men and has had more than enough as she does whatever she can to protect not only herself but her best friend. As tense as they are, there’s something lacking in these final minutes, not pushing things quite as far as you may expect. But by the time the film’s final shot comes around, complete with an excellent one-line rallying cry, it’s hard not to root for “The Royal Hotel.”
/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10