Maisie Williams has engaged in a fair amount of branching out since her breakthrough role as Arya Stark in Game Of Thrones, although it’s unlikely that any venture in the near future will shake her association with the aforementioned television series in the same manner that R-Patz has managed to disentangle himself from Twilight. With the exception of reasonably compelling TV thriller Cyberbully, Williams has participated in an assortment of lightweight and forgettable fare, The Falling, Departures and iBoy providing mediocre riffs on mystery, comedy-drama and science fiction respectively. She’s a decent enough actress, it would just be nice if the projects thrown her way had some more meat on the bone now and again.
This state of affairs is hardly looking up in her latest gig. The Owners, a British horror-thriller loosely based on the graphic novel Une Nuit de pleine lune by Belgian comic book artist Hermann, is a clumsy, unconvincing and ultimately boring addition to the genre that doesn’t even bother at attempting to find its own voice, and is sure to be quickly forgotten after the credits have rolled.
It’s the 1990s, and we’re somewhere in rural England. Mary (Williams) is a young woman in a steady relationship with Nathan (Ian Kenny), a devious tearaway with big ambitions regarding his desire to leave the local area, feeling that he deserves a future with more options. Glued to the chavvy Nathan’s delusionally arrogant hip are fellow ratbags Terry (Andrew Ellis a.k.a Gadget from This Is England) an irritatingly impressionable and co-dependent whinge-bag, and Gaz (Jake Curran) a sociopathic outsider from the mean streets of London with a huge chip on his shoulder who looks like a perpetually bitter Crass reject that fell in love with the glue. The trio spends their days engaging in wanton criminality and hanging out in Mary’s car when she doesn’t need it.
The latest scheme engineered by Nathan sees him and the other two twots casing the stately home of the Hugginses, a wealthy older couple who employ Terry’s mother as a cleaner. Thanks to her idle chatter, Terry has gotten wind of a safe kept in the basement, which has got to be crammed with bundles of cash, right? Breaking into the home with an exasperated and reluctant Mary in tow, the quartet bicker about the fact that the safe has a combination lock, Mary reveals to a gobsmacked Nathan that she’s with child, Gaz minces about menacingly and Terry doesn’t shut the f**k up moaning. Amid all of this annoying palaver, homeowners Dr Richard Huggins (Sylvester McCoy) and his wife Ellen (Rita Tushingham) return unexpectedly.
After some drawn-out sequences of threats to inflict torture and subsequent half-arsed applications of torture, the tables are suddenly turned on the crew of youngsters. As luck would have it, Dr Huggins and Ellen are nowhere near as normal or harmless as our focal idiots have taken them for, and before the night is out, mind games will be played, blood will be shed, and poor Mary may learn a thing or two about harrowing events in her familial past.
You will see nothing here that hasn’t been executed far more creatively in a plethora of other films. Unlike efforts such as Don’t Breathe, Villains or 90s cult classic The People Under The Stairs, The Owners doesn’t bring anything refreshing or imaginative to the protagonist(s)-breaks-into-home-of-nutter(s) sub-genre. McCoy & Tushingham are the redeeming aspects of the work, but even then, they are given little to work with beyond kooky and creepy stereotypes of well-to-do British countryside folk. Williams and the lads are not convincing enough to invest in, Curran being a standout culprit as the horrendously un-scary Gaz, the ostensibly dangerous element among the band of young thieves. The geriatric lunatics do imbue the film with an air of uncanny nastiness and a few laughs, but it sadly doesn’t merit the status of saving grace.
Julius Berg has allegedly directed some worthwhile episodes of several French television shows, and his directorial debut here very much feels like a hopelessly stretched-out filler instalment of some larger horror series. Suspense is lost in a quagmire of momentum-butchering scenes of arguments and dithering about, Berg and his co-writers no doubt under the assumption that all of this frustrating padding amounts to substantive characterisation. The cinematography attempts to evoke the drab moodiness of other troublesome kids fodder such as Eden Lake, but it never cultivates the fear it so desperately wants to. Chuck in a couple of uninspired twists, and you’re merely left with an out-and-out loser.
Fans of Maisie Williams or films about spooky psychopaths may be tempted to give this one a spin, but if you’ll allow me to implore you, you’re simply wasting your time. It is boring and vexatious, propelled by heroes who are so cardboard-cutout and obnoxious that you’ll be begging for their expedient demise at the hands of the old whackjobs. I’ve genuinely seen lacklustre-production Netflix original crap this year that gave me more pause than this.