This year, it feels like I have wrote more about videogames than film, which is a real anomaly. I have written around half a thousand reviews over the last seven years and I would wager that about eighty percent of them are for film and that a majority of those reviews were for the horror genre. This year has been paltry in-comparison to years prior. Of course, this has to do with the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak that has brought cinema to nearly a standstill. Early in the year though, 2020 was off to a rocky start with critical and box-office plunders like The Grudge, The Turning, and so on. As much as I loved The Invisible Man, I feel like this year especially has taken the wind out of my sails.
The Owners is a 2020 horror thriller film based on the graphic novel Une nuit de pleine lune by Hermann and Yves H. The film was the directorial debut for Julius Berg from a screenplay written by Mathieu Gompel and Berg, in collaboration with Geoff Cox.
When I saw the trailer for The Owners, I will admit first and foremost that I was not particularly sold by the film’s concept. In all likelihood, it is a coin-toss as to whether this film would have crossed my desk prior. I love the genre and, at one time, I watched anything and everything I could get my hands on. That was before 9-to-5’s and responsibilities demanded I make compromises and be more selective with what I consumed. The big calling card for this film was the participation of actress Maisie Williams who I associate with the Game of Thrones series. Her name on the marquee is what elevated this and kept it from falling through the cracks. Other actors involved include Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham, Jake Curran, Ian Kenny and Andrew Ellis.
The film has a deceptively simple premise – basically, Maisie’s character Mary is the boyfriend of some guy named Nathan who has hatched up a plan to rob an old couple’s house after his friend Terry let it slip they have a safe loaded up with cash. As the film unfolds, you will see other smaller, more intricate plot details sprout larger and become more relevant. Frankly though, most of what lies inside this film is revealed in the trailer. In fact, the general description you will find telegraphs the whole film.
The characters are straightforward, but bland. Nathan wants money and acts like a real jerk to Mary, especially when he is with Gaz, a dirt-bag type character, and Mary is opposed to his misdeeds, but, evidently, not that opposed, because she allows it. You will discover early on that she is pregnant with his child, but it all feels like frivolous exposition more than actual character development.
The camerawork is uneventful and mostly just stands there until around the end. The end cranks up the adrenaline and suspense, but is not wholeheartedly warranted by the rest of the film that led up to it.
I don’t know how everyone else feels about the home-invasion genre, but I generally like the idea of the genre. As a twenty-four-year-old man, I have only been out on my own for a while now, but, to be honest, it is only in the last year where everything has slowed down enough that it has dawned on me exactly how much I don’t want anyone in my house. In other words, it is a genre that calls for exploration. This film, however, of course, takes a different direction. This film is not about the victims surviving the intruder, but is, in fact, about the intruders, similar to the horror film Don’t Breathe, for instance.
The problem is we have seen a lot of this formula already. I have already watched someone break into a house and trash it, I have already watched someone try to find money and something go awry. In order for a film like this to excel, you have to find new nuances and creative ways to tell your story. Even things like how someone breaks into a house can propel the plot forward and entertain, but this film plays it very standard. Obviously, it is all about when everything turns on its head that they are hoping to sell the film with.
But, in the meantime, it was a forty minute slog of unlikable characters and busywork for what I want out from the film. Then, when all that payoff does eventually arrive, it is met with a whimper. All of it too telegraphed and obvious to suspend disbelief on. Even when you don’t exactly know the answer to something lingering in the film, you feel like you know, and then, you do.
The Owners is a decent enough film. It doesn’t do anything egregious, for instance. The trajectory is obvious from the get-go, so calculatingly safe that the landing was bound to be pleasant enough. It merely doesn’t do anything above satiating a basic standard. I don’t hate it, I don’t like it, but it’s fine.