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Kitty Green’s Second Feature Is an Unnerving Thriller That Just Hit Hulu

There’s horror in the mundane.

Jessica Henwick and Julia Garner in 'The Royal Hotel'
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In 2019, former documentarian Kitty Green found breakout success in the independent film world with her first scripted feature, The Assistant. Starring Ozark mainstay Julia Garner as an assistant working for a Harvey Weinstein-esque film producer, the slice-of-life drama earned attention for its lead’s heartbreaking central performance and Green’s clear-eyed storytelling. The film proved Green had a talent for highlighting the tension that often exists beneath the surface of seemingly everyday environments and interactions.

Last year, Green further demonstrated her ability in her sophomore scripted feature, The Royal Hotel. The film, which reunited Green and Garner, is a minimalist thriller that mines nearly all of its unbearable tension from the kind of everyday misogyny women face on a regular basis. Last year’s packed theatrical schedule left it overlooked, but now it’s finally streaming on Hulu.

Inspired by Pete Gleeson’s 2016 documentary, Hotel Coolgardie, The Royal Hotel follows Hanna (Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick), friends who run out of money while backpacking in Australia. Desperate to acquire quick cash, the two accept temporary jobs as bartenders at a remote pub in a desolate mining region. As they’re forced to contend with their rude boss, Billy (Hugo Weaving), and the bar’s attention-starved male patrons, Hanna begins to suspect that she and Liv may be trapped in an unsafe, potentially life-threatening situation.

Things inevitably escalate over The Royal Hotel’s lean 91-minute runtime, as crude comments and inappropriate jokes become much more. The film, which Green co-wrote with Oscar Redding, doesn’t rush into any instances of outright bloodshed. Instead, the duo spends the first half slowly but surely building a palpable sense of unease. They fully embrace the familiar, horror-inspired aspects of the film’s plot, including its middle-of-nowhere setting and unsuspecting leads. It’s reminiscent of, among other films, Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room.

Visually, sonically, and narratively, Green repeatedly illustrates just how alone Liv and Hanna are. From the dinginess of the bar to Billy’s lack of respect for their privacy and even, at one point, the distant cries (or laughter?) of a girl echoing across the desert landscape, The Royal Hotel makes the isolation and danger of its locale clear. Green also packs the film, much like she did The Assistant, with throwaway comments and silent looks between Liv, Hanna, and their male customers that make you further feel the girls’ growing discomfort with their circumstances.

Jessica Henwick and Julia Garner both give spell-binding performances.


While the arc of The Royal Hotel’s story may be obvious, the film always finds new, subtle ways to up its tension. The movie goes out of its way to avoid predictable twists and, in keeping with Green’s overarching vision, doesn’t ever sit too long with its protagonists’ misery and fear. It’s both an effective thriller and a deft piece of observational filmmaking that uses all-too-common instances of inappropriate male behavior to make you feel overwhelming levels of dread.

It’s a fittingly subdued follow-up to The Assistant, one that sees Green further hone and expand her visual capabilities. She’s made a movie rooted in the same female perspective as The Assistant, but more comfortable leaning into its genre influences. The Royal Hotel is a slow-burn thriller that gets under your skin and stays there.

The Royal Hotel is streaming on Hulu.

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