Following her role in the X-Men franchise’s whimpering last entry, The New Mutants, Maisie Williams tries to bounce back with The Owners, a British horror-thriller that goes for the same domestic shocks and turns as Shyamalan’s The Visit. The end product is a messy but tolerable rollercoaster of a film, with enough twists to keep you watching, but not much else.
The film starts by focusing on a group of three early-twenties British boys – Nathan (Ian Kenny), Terry (Andew Elis) and Gaz (Jake Curran). Their plan is simple: break into the home of the elderly Huggins family (headed by Sylvester McCoy), and rob them of their jewels and cash to finally make enough to get by. But the situation is complicated by the arrival of Nathan’s pregnant girlfriend Mary (Williams), who arrives just at the point where things start going awry, and our expectations of what this film is are completely flipped.
Which paves the way for decent horror-thriller action, compounded by some strong lead performances, gruesome violence, and a mid-point plot twist that genuinely surprises, even if the latter half of Julius Berg’s film never quite capitalises on it enough. The whole film plays as one extended sequence – a night of constantly unravelling mayhem – and it’s paced strongly enough to keep things fresh, even if there’s nothing revolutionary here. What is disappointing is the tedious script from Berg and Mathieu Gompel, which not only feels somewhat mean-spirited in the brutality of the violence, but also totally mishandles the Britishness of the characters, with dialogue comprising of dry interactions, ableist slurs and hyperbolic outbursts that do no favours to the cast, who clutch at straws to hold the film together.
It’s a shame, because despite how much each actor brings to their role – with McCoy and Curran particular standouts – the script doesn’t ground these characters at all, or make us particularly engaged with the plot. Things pick up at points, and the ending itself arises quite a bit of intrigue, but The Owners will ultimately be remembered as an unexceptional entry in the mid-budget British horror canon, that should’ve offered so much more.
Signature Entertainment presents The Owners, on Digital Platforms 22nd February and DVD 1st March.