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Film Review

The Owners Review

Director: Julius Berg

Cast: Maisie Williams, Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham

Distributor: Signature Entertainment 

Running Time: 92 mins

Based on the Franco-Belgian graphic novel Une Nuit de Pleine Lune by Hermann and Yves Huppen, The Owners is the film debut of TV director Julius Berg, best known for the creepy French crime drama The Forest (catch it on Netflix). The source material doesn’t seem to have a translation, so Berg has the double pressure of not just bringing it out of the Francophonie but reinventing it as a piece of bucolic brutality set in rural England.

From the very outset as tracksuit-clad scrubbers Gaz (Jake Curran), Terry (Andrew Ellis, and Nathan (Ian Kenny) – soon joined by Nathan’s girlfriend, Mary (Maisie Williams) –  spy on an elderly couple’s country pile, it’s hard not to think of Fede Álvarez’s Don’t Breathe (2016). Especially knowing that this foursome is about to bite off more than it can chew when the owners return, comparisons to Álvarez’s infinitely more disturbing movie refuse to budge, only reinforced by the final twist itself. The Doct- er, Dr Richard Huggins (Sylvester McCoy) and his wife Ellen (Rita Tushingham) don’t flip the switch quite so suddenly as Don’t Breathe’s blind Vietnam vet – the reveal of the threat these ‘victims’ pose comes a lot more slowly and disquietingly – but the destination is very familiar. 

On the other hand, the concentration of young Brit talent – This Is England’s Ellis and Game of Thrones Williams particularly – bouncing off a pair of more established thesps gives The Owners the feel of Inside Number 9. The firm Nineties setting, the establishing shots of a mock-Jacobean country house, and the blackly comedic edge that follows in McCoy’s wake only serve to compound this. When it all kicks off in the final third, the frame becomes a claustrophobic square – it’s effective for cranking up the tension but it’s also the sort of nod-to-VHS ratio that Sheersmith and Pemberton might deploy.

Signature Entertainment, 22nd February

McCoy and Tushingham are absolutely hypnotic to watch. The former brings a purposeful stillness that won’t surprise fans of his stronger Who stories, whilst the latter glides from Alzheimers-addled infantilism to screeching mania with shocking potency. The kids are great – especially the feral, mulleted Gaz (Jake Curran) – but drawing your eyes from the pension-aged power couple takes real effort. For a Whover (as nobody calls us), it’s a treat to see McCoy outside of his natural habitat and back on the screen, a reminder that he is a genuinely fantastic actor, full of vibrancy and power.

Signature Entertainment presents The Owners on Digital 22 February and DVD 1 March.

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