Director – Julius Berg, Screenplay – Julies Berg & Mathieu Gompel, With the Participation of Geoff Cox, Based on the Comic-Book Une Nuit de Pleine Lune by Hermann & Yves H., Producers – Alain de la Marta & Christopher Granier-DeFerre, Photography – David Ungaro, Music – Paul Frazer & Vincent Welch, Visual Effects – Molinaire (Supervisor – Andy Tusabe), Special Effects Supervisor – Scott MacIntyre, Prosthetics Design – Sangeet Prabhaker, Production Design – Bobbie Cousins. Production Company – RFLE Films/XYX Films/Versatile BlueLight/Wild Bunch/Logical Pictures.
Maisie Williams (Mary/Jane), Sylvester McCoy (Richard Huggins), Rita Tushingham (Ellen Huggins), Andrew Ellis (Terry), Ian Kenny (Nathan), Jake Curran (Gaz)
Mary is upset because her boyfriend Nathan has taken her car and she needs it to get to work. She finds Nathan and his mates Gaz and Terry sitting outside the home of elderly retired doctor Richard Huggins making plans to break in in search of a safe. Nathan takes the car keys and makes Mary wait while they break into the house. They locate the safe in the basement only to find it is an old-fashioned combination safe rather than an electronic one. The only way to break in is for them to wait until Huggins and his wife Ellen return. They then take the old couple prisoner where a psychopathic Gaz threatens to cut off their fingers to get the combination. At that point, things start to go wrong and people start getting killed and others taken prisoner.
You might be mistaken in thinking from the casting and the English countryside that The Owners is a British film. It is in fact made by French director Julius Berg with the backing of a combination of French and British production companies. It is based on a French comic-book Une Nuit de Pleine Lune (The Night of the Full Moon) (2017) by Hermann – in the original, the group of toughs are Moroccan immigrants but in the film the characters and entire location has been translated from France to the English countryside.
In the last few years there have been a spate of films about house burglars entering homes only to encounter something far more sinister – a serial killer or people imprisoned and where they frequently end up prisoners or hunted. See the likes of The People Under the Stairs (1991), The Collector (2009), Don’t Breathe (2016), Bad Samaritan (2018), Monster Party (2018) and Villains (2019). (See Home Invasion Thrillers).
The Owners starts out well. It draws up a trio of three miscreants – boyfriend Ina Kenny; the shy awkward Andrew Ellis; and a real live wire performance from Jake Curran who lets go completely. There’s also Maisie Williams, the amazing find of Game of Thrones (2011-9), as the girlfriend – a role that never seems to give an actress with such a bright and sparkling screen presence room to do much. Sylvester McCoy, no less than the Seventh Doctor on tv’s Doctor Who (1963-89, 2005- ) now at age 77, gives a doddery, kindly performance. This is only matched by a frail and bony Rita Tushingham, once a British It Girl in assorted 1960s films, who projects an uncanny intensity. You keep wondering what it is going on with them.
That said, the film sets everything up – creates sharp and abrasive characterisations of the protagonists and tension as they imprison the elderly couple and start torturing them with the suggestion that there is more sinister things going on with the two seniors. The great disappointment of The Owners is that nothing much at all is going on. After the first twenty or so minutes, the plot contorts and twists about with various of the party either eliminated or being held prisoner/turning the tables on the others but without anything significant happening. The big question of the film is what is the big secret being held in the safe. However, when the film does finally reveal what is there at the very end, the surprise is an underwhelming “huh?”.