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  Owners, The The Hopeless House Of Hell
Year: 2020
Director: Julius Berg
Stars: Maisie Williams, Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham, Jake Curran, Andrew Ellis, Ian Kenny, Stacha Hicks
Genre: Horror, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: These three petty criminals are sitting in the car belonging to Mary (Maisie Williams), the girlfriend of one of them, Nathan (Ian Kenny), while Terry (Andrew Ellis) dozes cluelessly and Gaz (Jake Curran) smokes enthusiastically. Gaz is really the driving force of their plans, which involve the house they are scoping out through a pair of binoculars: they have heard the owners - the village doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and his wife (Rita Tushingham) - have a large amount of money stashed in a safe somewhere in the house. Terry's mother is their cleaning lady, and mentioned this to him, which has placed the notion in Nathan and Gaz's mind, but Mary is not happy about whatever they're scheming and as they make their move, she stays in the car since Nathan has the keys...

Nineties-set The Owners was based on a French horror comic book, directed by a Frenchman, Julius Berg, who had a lot of experience in French television prior to this, but it was set in a quiet English village to contrast with the violence that was to erupt once the trio of thugs entered the house. Or rather, Gaz was the actual thug and he goaded the other two into the lawbreaking, so you could see where this was going at least until the halfway mark. France's horror trends had been fairly extreme for the past decade or two, and if this was not exactly subversive as some of that had been, it assuredly set about its nastiness with gusto, even to the point of resembling an action movie from some angles, only without anything as obvious as bullets and explosions going on, never mind kung fu fighting.

It was largely blades that caused the damage in The Owners, though a well-placed sledgehammer did not go amiss, yet while it was not quite the limbs-a-flying gorefest it might have been in order to keep the tone this side of the outrageously unbelievable, it did come pretty close in certain scenes. What was evidently intended to be punishing, as once the ordeals begin there's no let up whatsoever, was tempered by the way you wanted to see the ugly behaviour of Nathan and Gaz, and to an extent the slower-witted Terry, receive some form of comeuppance, since that was the way these movies operated. You commit some crime, be it social or actually violent or theft-related, and you have your just desserts, that was what you expected, and for a while at least it appears as if Berg and company were playing by those rules with a high degree of faith.

Film buffs of an older generation would be attracted out of curiosity to see McCoy and Tushingham working together, sounding an odd match up but actually they had some chemistry as she played it borderline senile and he was more avuncular, like you would anticipate a country doctor to be, pillar of the community and all that. Yet the screenplay drip-fed us information about what was happening outside of this closed off house of mayhem as Gaz decides they should stick around until the old couple return and torture them to find the combination of the safe. Mary has a twin sister, Jane, for instance, who mysteriously disappeared but may have some connection to what is about to occur, and the wife misses a daughter who could possibly be dead herself, unless she is deluded. All of this fleshed out what was a fairly slender, straightforward narrative once we had our twists established. Williams drew sympathy as the reluctant fourth member of the gang, if only because all the terrible consequences were heaped onto her, but if the characters were of the two-dimensional aspect, this moved along with muscular style. Also: Hartley Hare on TV!

[Signature Entertainment presents The Owners on Digital Platforms 22nd February and DVD 1st March 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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