Believe it or not, home invasion movies are not a new phenomenon. In fact, one of the earliest examples of the genre was silent movie director D. W. Griffith’s 8-minute length film “The Lonely Villa” (1909). Basically, location dictates whether a movie can qualify as a home invasion thriller.

If the location is a home of some sort, the film meets the requirements as a home invasion epic. Movies about people stranded in public places, such as either tornado shelters or confined in public facilities aren’t designated as home invasion films.

Click the Photo and Purchase!

Typically, since Hollywood holds little sacred, filmmakers have tweaked the formula so that shelters, hotels, and public facilities stand in as hybrid-home invasion thrillers. A legitimate home invasion thriller must transpire on property which a family either owns or rents.

For example, “Assault on Precinct 13” (1976) and its 2005 remake aren’t home invasion thrillers since they take place in public facilities. As a movie genre, home invasion thrillers—particularly those made over the past twenty years—have waxed increasingly violent, and these life and death clashes tend to be more personal since the occupants are fighting for their lives in a last-ditch effort to survive.

Movies like “The Desperate Hours” (1955), “Straw Dogs” (1971) and its 2011 remake, “Funny Games” (2007), “The Strangers” (2008), The Collector (2009), “Don’t Breathe” (2016), and “The Purge” (2013) exemplify these violent, personal thrillers with life and death stakes. Mind you, filmmakers complicate the home invasion formula when they divide our sympathies between the occupants and the trespassers.

French director Julius Berg’s home invasion thriller “The Owners” (*** OUT OF ****) plays out at an isolated country estate in England, and daredevil teenagers craving excitement and cash are the perpetrators. Meanwhile, Berg inverts the standard-issue home invasion formula and springs one surprise after another at audiences.

“The Owners” opens with a scenic long shot of the English countryside. “Mary Shelley” lenser David Ungaro pans his camera 180 degrees away from a mansion nestled in a cluster of trees to a compact, four-door, red car parked on a hillside.

Seated behind the wheel is wannabe rapper Nathan (Ian Kenny of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”), while Terry (Andrew Ellis of “Demons Never Die”) sits alongside him, and tall, gawky Gaz (Jake Curran of “Stardust”) babbles on in the backseat. The guys have been getting high while they watch the residence of Dr. Richard Huggins (Sylvester McCoy of “The Hobbit” trilogy) and his wife, Ellen (Rita Tushingham of “Dr. Zhivago”) with binoculars.

The Huggins are about to depart the premises to dine out. Nathan has borrowed Mary’s car, and she insists he return it because she is already late to her job. Mary (Maisie Williams of “The New Mutants”) knows they are up to no good, but Nathan convinces her to let him hang onto her wheels for another hour.

Grudgingly, Mary relents, and the guys cruise off over the hill and break into the Huggins’ residence. Gaz is a one-man wrecking crew as he enters the sprawling house and smashes objects, overturns furniture, and basically trashes every room in his search for the fabled wall safe.

Terry’s mom, Jean (Stacha Hicks of “Captain Phillips”), is the Huggins’ housekeeper, and she mentioned the wall safe to her son. When Terry stumbles upon it, Gaz is frustrated because his safecracking equipment was designed to open vaults with electronic codes rather than a combination dial.

This is the first of many obstacles with which these ill-fated burglars must contend. Since he took the car keys, Mary bursts into the house and rebukes Nathan about vandalizing the Huggins’ home.

Deal of the Day!

The Huggins return home sooner than Nathan expected, and he and his thugs take them hostage and grille the doctor about the safe. At one point, Gaz assumes command of the operation, browbeating Nathan because he lets Mary interfere with their efforts, and then chiding him for his reluctance to sever Ellen’s ring finger with a box cutter.

Suddenly, Gaz and Nathan tangle in a knockdown drag out fight that leaves Nathan with the box cutter jammed in his stomach. Mary lashes out at Gaz with a sledgehammer, and he poses no more problems for anybody. During this fracas, Dr. Huggins manages to free himself and attend to Nathan. Initially, it looked like these reckless hellions were going to rule the day, but Berg turns the tables.

“Dream Kids” scenarist Mathieu Gompel, “High Life” scribe Geoff Cox, and Berg based “The Owners” on Belgian artist Hermann Huppen’s 2011 comic book “Une Nuit de Pleine lune” Translated into English, the title means “Night of the Full Moon.” Berg never treats any of the revelations in this grim melodrama seriously, and he saves the best revelation for last.

Were this movie a success, it would be stimulating to see how Berg could develop a sequel. “The Owners” constitutes a triumph of style over sadism. Rita Tushingham delivers a feisty performance as the unsavory teens threaten her with bodily harm, and Berg milks these scenes for all the suspense and hysteria he can conjure up. The macabre humor and the witty dialogue take some of the sting out of the sadism.

Meantime, the two blood-splattered corpses which they have to step over constitutes most of the gore. Throughout “The Owners,” Sylvester McCoy disarms our fears as a garrulous old physician who struggles keep everybody calm about their predicament. You almost forget you’re watching a vicious horror chiller without a rating as Dr. Huggins putters and prattles about the place.

Huggins’ rants about an infestation problem with all sorts of creepy crawlies is laden with irony. Without being specific, Dr. Huggins is alluding to the notorious trespassers.

Ultimately, Berg and company subvert our expectations in what resembles the aforementioned film “Don’t Breathe,” but from the perspective of the residents who ultimately wrestle the upper hand from their adversaries. Mind you, as obnoxious as these mean-spirited teens are, “The Owners” emerges as a palatable “Twilight Zone” take on the home invasion scenario.

To check out more great movie reviews just click here:


About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.