Film Reviews

Review: ‘‘Hotel Coolgardie’

Hot Docs 2016

Lina sandwiched between Jamie (left) and Anthony (right).
Courtesy of Hot Docs

Hotel Coolgardie
(Australia, 82 min.)
Dir. Pete Gleeson
Programme: International Spectrum (World Premiere)

“As a travel experience, I don’t give Coolgardie any stars,” says Steph, one of the main characters in this doc about a pair of Finnish backpackers working as barmaids in remote Australia. The film reminds me of the Wolf Creek horror franchise, which centres on a chuckling “Hey Myte” Aussie, who subjects backpackers to excruciating torture. The denizens of the bar are not killers, but they are such leering creeps, you wonder why they signed releases allowing for their appearances in the film.

On the job, the girls endure a boss who bellows that they are “fresh meat” just “out of the packet.” Apparently, they are expected to welcome the advances of blokes who admit their courtship skills are limited to witticisms like “Let’s fuck like rabbits,” or banter about small penises. You won’t enjoy it, one guy says, but it will be over fast.

A nightmare version of Cheers, Hotel Coolgardie is set mostly in the bar with excursions to unattractive outlying terrain. As the film advances, Steph and Lina pick up on some vestiges of humanity in their clients and come to understand that a deep sadness permeates the place. But overall, the picture is a real-life backpacker horror story that, who knows, may have been inspired by Wolf Creek.

Hotel Coolgardie screens:
-Sunday, May 1 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 7:15 PM
-Monday, May 2 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 2:00 PM
-Saturday, May 7 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 9:45 PM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more information.

Maurie Alioff writes about movies for publications off- and on-line, and is a screenwriter currently collaborating on a documentary featuring Bob Marley’s granddaughter while researching other Jamaica-related projects, including a magical-realist crime story drawing on stories he hears on the island. He has written for radio, journals and TV, taught screenwriting and been a contributing editor to various magazines.

View all articles by Maurie Alioff »