The idea of the film The Owners (2020) belongs to the Belgian artist Hermann Huppen – his graphic novel Night of the Full Moon. French screenwriter and director Julius Berg made his feature film debut with this work. This is a “walker in the dark” and “torture horror” with mental perversions of characters who act as the antagonist of the main characters – unlucky burglars from a British provincial town of the late 1990s.
Went on the attack, but were captured
Three guys from the outskirts decided to improve their financial situation at the expense of a married couple of elderly aristocrats living in a prestigious area. The plan for easy enrichment was simple: break into a luxurious mansion when the owners were not at home, and crack the safe.
To the scumbag Gaza, this idea seems to be “a trifling business.” Weird bumpkin Terry, who got a tip on the house of a wealthy surgeon, volunteers to take care of the technical side of things. Dunce Nathan goes on a robbery in the hope that it will help him end poverty. Involuntarily, Nathan’s girlfriend is involved in crime. Mary appears at the moment when the gopniks are watching the old men leaving their home.
Attackers get inside, find a safe in the basement. But it is not possible to open the code lock. They do not want to leave with nothing and make a decision: wait for the owners to arrive, intimidate them and try to find out the code from the safe. No one suspects that you will have to answer for a burglary attempt right on the spot.
Returning home, the Huggins become victims of unfortunate robbers. Helpless old people are beaten, tied to chairs, tortured. But all threats and measures of influence are ineffectual. The elderly spouses are stubbornly silent, then put pressure on pity, begin to evade and confuse the raiders. They get nervous, quarrel among themselves, a knife appears and first blood. And the owners of the house, who at first aroused sympathy, turn out to be very unpleasant, mysterious, infernal persons.
The doctor and his wife start an exhausting psychological game, during which one of the negligent thieves is smashed in the head, the second is locked in the pantry, and the third is simply treated to toxic tea. In the frail bodies of the old people settled real devils, obsessed with bloodthirsty chaos. The “dirty business” for the stupid and frivolous robbers turned into a monstrous game of cat and mouse with the maniac owners of the house.
To the last, the smart and quick-witted Mary, who is less to blame for what happened, tries to resist and save the situation. But it is not possible to defeat the irrational unpredictability of cute old men who turned out to be psychopaths and sadists. The situation in the sinister mansion is transformed from a bungled robbery attempt into a nightmarish plot about how the hunter becomes prey.
The film The Owners tells that when you invade someone else’s house, it is impossible to foresee what awaits you behind closed doors. That undertaking a serious matter, you should never underestimate the enemy. That is why the robbers who set off for easy prey turned out, as in the well-known proverb: “we went on the attack, but were captured.”
Mystery of the cute old people
The filmmakers managed to make the story look nasty, bloody and dirty, as it should be in horror. But the main evil here is not something supernatural, but ordinary people. And therefore, even when nothing happens on the screen, the viewer is made to tremble simply by inclement English weather.
The meaning and zest of the “tension” of the plot is in the discrepancy between the harmless appearance and terrible deeds of Richard and Helen Huggins. What’s wrong with the owners of the house? Why is their immeasurable calm coupled with incomprehensible madness? The viewer puzzles over this until the last frames of the film. And the question that haunts from the very beginning: what is there so valuable in this safe to so stubbornly resist opening it?
The director managed to initially and accentuate to place in the center of attention (and leave it until the last) the idea that sadistic old men have some kind of secret. Hints of this are scattered throughout the length of the film. By the end of the film, it becomes clear from the vague pop-up images and vague feelings that these people lost their child many years ago.
The distraught doctor, unable to save his daughter from an incurable disease, keeps the children’s room in perfect order, as if she had just been there. The crazy old woman, who has not recovered from the death of her daughter, calls all the girls after her. This makes the old people cooing with each other touchingly look even more sinister, they exude complete madness.
The atmosphere of horror in the film The Owners thickens greatly when the viewer realizes who is presented as an antagonist to the main characters. People who suffer for their own child, who died many years ago, who destroy today’s children. So who is scarier here: ruthless underage robbers-losers or abnormal owners of the house with sadistic inclinations?