GORE IN THE STORE
THE OWNERS ****
Directed by Julius Berg.
Starring Maisie Williams, Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham.
Horror, UK, 92minutes.
Reviewed as part of Arrow Video FrightFest Digital Edition 2.
Nathan, Gaz and Terry, a trio of amateur, make that deeply amateur, thieves take it upon themselves to break into the country home/surgery of an elderly doctor and frail wife to break into their safe which is rumoured to contain a fortune. Events soon take a turn for the unexpected when Nathan’s girlfriend Mary turns up demanding the return of her car. The quartet then find events spiralling out of control when Dr Huggins and wife Ellen return home earlier than expected. Using the threat of violence Gaz and his friends gradually find out that the threat may soon turn against them.
Based on a French graphic novel, Une Nuit de Plene Lune, this feature debut from Julius Berg carries over the uncompromising vibe that a number of French horrors made their reputation with. Whilst it never reaches the bloody heights of something like SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE or INSIDE it still has a surprisingly nasty edge that gets sharper and sharper as the film progresses to its claustrophobic finale.
Horror fans will likely guess at the shift the story takes but it still manages to grip with its constantly shifting character dynamics as the drive for survival becomes more and more frantic. Mary, played by Maisie Williams, surprisingly choosing such a seemingly low-profile role after GAME OF THRONES, makes for the film’s most sympathetic character in the group of intruders, finding herself unwillingly roped into the home invasion. Jake Curran as Gaz makes for a supremely unpleasant villain who soon takes matters into his own hands to get the cash in any way he can but the films biggest surprise is former Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy.
After years of seeing this actor playing good natured and offbeat characters it feels slightly surreal seeing him in such a dark setting. The steps he takes to protect whatever his safe may be holding and his terrified wife manage to keep the viewer guessing and gripped making for one of his more memorable roles in years.
To say anymore would be to rob the film of its surprises. Comparisons can be made to another recent home invasion film that to name it would probably set you up for what exactly is going on in this more provincial film. As a commentary on hostility between generations it may not be the most subtle but there is a sly commentary on the upper classes manipulating the lower for their own gains. Whilst it may not score any points for originality it will please home invasion fans as well as more general horror fans who may be surprised by the increasingly, grisly and nasty turns it takes.
Well filmed, Berg uses one shift in screen ratio that further increases the sense of panic and claustrophobia, THE OWNERS is a more than worthwhile home invasion yarn that manages to take the viewer by surprise especially with its uncompromising ending.