THE OWNERS movie poster | ©2020 RLJE Films

THE OWNERS movie poster | ©2020 RLJE Films

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Maisie Williams, Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham, Andrew Ellis, Jake Curran, Ian Kenny
Writers: Mathieu Gompel & Julius Berg, with the participation of Geoff Cox, based on the comic book UNE NIGHT DE PLEINE LUNE by Yves H. and Hermann
Director: Julius Berg
Distributor: RLJE Films
Release Date: September 4, 2020

THE OWNERS is one of those horror thrillers where much of the suspense comes from figuring out exactly what is going on here.

We start out amid rolling green hills in England, with nary a soul in sight. Then we focus on a beaten-up car, parked on the roadless grass, with three dope-smoking young men inside. Nathan (Ian Kenny) is the driver, the most normal of the group. He is also the boyfriend of Mary (Maisie Williams), who is the car’s owner. Terry (Andrew Ellis) is Nathan’s not terribly bright pal. Gaz (Jake Curran), who’s just meeting Mary for the first time, establishes himself as a tremendously unpleasant bully.

Then we see that the car is parked so that its occupants can see the comings and goings of the owners of an enormous, isolated mansion. The place belongs to Dr. Huggins (Sylvester McCoy) and his wife Ellen (Rita Tushingham). The lads are waiting for the elderly couple to leave the premises, so that they can rob the place. Certain there’s money in the house safe but unable to open it, Gaz and Nathan hit on the idea of waiting for the Hugginses to come home and coercing them into providing the combination. This is not a perfect plan.

Nathan, Terry, and especially Gaz are so unlikable that we quickly understand that THE OWNERS is the type of film where we’re being invited to root for their comeuppance.

We’re less sure how to feel about Mary. It’s not that she’s a bad person – she doesn’t know about the robbery, and tries multiple times to stop it – but we seriously can’t figure out what she’s doing with Nathan. He’s not actively evil, but he’s an average louse. Williams comes off as innately intelligent, so it’s hard to credit why she has remained in the relationship, or why she’s as passive as she is for as long as she is. It’s possible that this reviewer has the performer somewhat typecast as Arya Stark from GAME OF THRONES and Ashildr from DOCTOR WHO, but Williams doesn’t come off as average in the way the screenplay suggests that Mary is.

The screenplay, by Mathieu Gompel & THE OWNERS director Julius Berg, is based on the comic book UNE NIGHT DE PLEINE LUNE by Yves H. and Hermann. Without reading the source material, it’s tough to know what’s new and what was already there. Certainly the writers have crafted a pleasingly twisty (and bloody) scenario that keeps us guessing not only what will happen, but also why. We’re especially curious about the contents of the safe, which gets a good payoff. Director Berg also knows how to continually deliver jolts, narratively and visually.

McCoy as the kindly-seeming doctor and Tushingham as his vulnerable, mercurial wife are both topnotch, and Kenny, Ellis, and Curran are all expert in their roles. Bobbie Cousins deserves special mention for ingenious production design.

THE OWNERS doesn’t have broad metaphoric range – its characters and situation are very specific – and it’s a bit of a chore to spend time with the lads in the early going, but the film packs a wicked punch.

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