In Julius Berg’s The Owners, a gang of burglars terrorise an elderly couple; only to discover they might not be as harmless as they seem…
The first half of the film seems to be building towards a home invasion thriller with reprobates Nathan (Ian Kenny)1, Gaz (Jake Curran), and Terry (Andrew Ellis) knocking over a sedate country manor.
As the only one with a vehicle, Nathan’s girlfriend Jane (Maisie Williams)2 finds herself roped into proceedings.
The film’s script, written by Berg and Mathieu Gompel, takes care to flesh out these characters. Nathan has a chip on his shoulder and sees this as his chance to get out of the town he grew up in. His mate Terry is the subject of much abuse; a pitiful schlub who learned of the potential score from his housecleaner mum.
Gaz, however, is a wildcard: lean and leery, mouthy and menacing, he makes for a classic movie psycho; somewhere between Heath Ledgers’ Joker and Vyv from The Young Ones.
When the house’s residents, beloved local doctor Richard Huggins (Sylvester McCoy) and his dotty wife Ellen (Rita Tushingham), return home before they can open the safe, the situation escalates.
In its second half, The Owners switches gears into horror territory; building inexorably towards the reveal that seemingly kindly Hugginses may well have something to hide.
While lacking the tension of the film’s earlier scenes, this is not without its own pleasures. McCoy’s kindly, shuffling Dr. Richards3 is a wonderfully unassuming monster – so kindly and plausible, you can scarcely believe he could ever mean anyone harm; until those rolling rs begin to creep out. Tushingham’s Ellen, meanwhile, vacillates between scatter-brained innocence and brittle, Old Testament fury.
However, without the immediate physical threat of Gav to galvanise proceedings, it degenerates into old being people creepy, singing fairytales and the like, and young people yelling at each other.
A neat twist-payoff brings the film to an ironic close, but, despite its memorable performances, The Owners never quite manages to take full possession of its otherwise promising premise.
The Owners is now available on DVD and VOD from Signature Entertainment.