Synopsis: A group of friends think they find an easy score at an empty house with a safe full of cash. But when the owners, an elderly couple, come home early, the tables are suddenly turned.
Stars: Maisie Williams, Sylvester McCoy, Jake Curran, Ian Kenny, Andrew Ellis, Rita Tushingham
Director: Julius Berg
Running Length: 92 minutes
TMMM Score: (4/10)
Review: As the summer days dwindle and the fall weather approaches, I’ve started to see less of those super hot pool days and more of the chilly temps that signal a time when we’ll be indoors even more than we are now. The last few months most of the world has been relegated indoors, hopefully staving off the further spread of a pandemic. Some, like myself, don’t mind the excuse to be a homebody for a little while and not have to leave the confines of home so often while others get the cabin-fever itch to roam. These are the people you may need to worry about, especially if you live in areas where snow may trap them inside for a lengthy period through the beginning of next year.
Luckily, we have a wealth of movies to get us through our time but strangely there have been a number of films that might exacerbate your feelings of claustrophobia. Last week’s release Centigrade found a couple frozen inside their rental car, desperately trying to free themselves before they starve or freeze to death. Then there was Relic, the awesome Australian drama-horror which preyed upon fears not just of the physical but of the mental as well, where even your house turns against you and can’t be trusted. Homewrecker was a cautionary tale of never accepting the kindness of strangers, especially those that invite you into their home right away and June’s You Should Have Left takes the haunted house genre to skewed new levels. Finally, The Rental was a dark, twisty reminder that the vacation home that’s too good to be true often is.
Now comes The Owners and it’s likely the nastiest one of them all and while you’d expect that statement to be followed with “and that’s a good thing”, I sadly can’t say that about this adaptation of a 2017 French graphic novel. Though it has all the makings of a grim good time and feels as if it possesses a slick swath of tricks up its sleeves with a solid opening introduction, it bungles its pivotal reveal which sends the remaining hour into a downward spiral. Moving from suspense to laughs is never a good thing and that’s where The Owners finds itself when it hands over the keys and the credits roll.
Feeling an awful lot like 2016’s far superior and infinitely more surprising Don’t Breathe, The Owners opens with mates Nathan (Ian Kenny, Solo: A Star Wars Story) and Terry (Andrew Ellis) scoping out the remote home of the local doctor with their new acquaintance Gaz (Jake Curran, Fury). It’s clear from the start that there’s a problem with the power dynamic in the group, with Nathan appearing to be the leader but the more brutal and soulless Gaz often goading the weaker man on to make decisions while seemingly naïve Terry watches it all unfold. Nathan’s girlfriend Mary (Maisie Williams, The New Mutants) eventually joins the group and goes along, only because she’s promised the burglary of a safe the doctor keeps hidden will be an easy in and out job.
Of course, nothing goes as planned because after they enter the house the movie makes the first of several right turns meant to keep the audience off balance. The first few times, writer/director Julius Berg and co-writer Mathieu Gompel accomplish their mission in creating some intrigue for viewers in wanting to know more. Against our better judgement, we want the gang to go further into the house and uncover more of what’s behind the closed doors. They’ve got one whopper of a shocker ready to pounce but unfortunately, that’s where the creative juices start to dry up and turn sticky.
It should come as no surprise that the doctor (Sylvester McCoy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, doing his best Ian Holm impression and succeeding) and his dotty wife (Rita Tushingham, Doctor Zhivago) return and become a part of the night’s events. Continuing its icky descent, Berg heaps on the violence and gore and instead of focusing on finding plot points to make the characters interesting it feels as if the filmmakers were just out to make a catch and kill chase flick with diminishing logic the longer everyone is alive. Characters take forever to realize the imminent danger they’re in and by that point you’ve already written them off, if you haven’t already wondered why they’ve suddenly changed their personalities entirely. One character morphs into such a different person with new motivations that I half thought they were the evil twin of the original.
With films like Don’t Breathe or another nifty entry, 2015’s Intruders, home invasion thrillers have shown they can take a simple fear and maximize the suspense with some creative energy put forth. The Owners has a game cast and every material needed to join the ranks as a successful entry in the genre but can’t make a flame out of the sparks it attempts to generate.