‘The Owners’, directed by Julius Berg and adapted from a French graphic novel, is equal parts thrilling and horrifying. The film initially plays out like a retelling of the popular horror flick ‘Don’t Breathe’, only to take a completely different turn. It stars Maisie Williams, Jake Curran, Ian Kenny, and Andrew Ellis as home invaders looking to get rich quick and Sylvester McCoy and Rita Tushingham as the elderly couple they plan to rob.
The Owners: Plot Summary
‘The Owners’ begins with three hell-raisers, Nathan, Terry and Gaz, staking out an elderly couple, the Huggins’, mansion. They prepare to rob them blind when they venture out. They are joined by Mary, Nathan’s girlfriend, who becomes an unwitting accomplice to their masterplan.
The Owners’ characters oscillate between playing hero and villain. Despite his brash, devil-may-care front, Nathan makes for a sympathetic character when we learn that his impoverished, hand-to-mouth lifestyle has been a strong determinant of his motivations. Mary is spirited and spunky, but, ultimately, easily manipulated by Nathan. Terry, whose mother works as a maid at the Huggins’ mansion, is a nervous wreck of a character, towards whom one can’t help but feel, both, exasperated and charitable. Gaz, on the other hand, is completely unlike Terry. Arrogant and manic in his thirst for violence, he’s a not-so-silent puppeteer, adeptly pulling Nathan’s strings and forcing his hand. While Nathan and Terry are in it for money, Gaz is in it for kicks.
The gang enters the Huggins’ home and ransacks it to bits. They believe they’ve struck gold when they discover a large safe hidden in the basement of the mansion. They decide to shock and scare the combination to the safe out of the elderly couple when they return. When the Hugginses return home, they are ambushed by the four and taken hostage. The makers of ‘The Owners’ initially paint a benevolent and pitiful picture of the couple. But Dr. Huggins, a razor-sharp doctor, is one half of an out-and-out eccentric pair. Mrs. Huggins, woozy and idiosyncratic, seems to be halfway towards losing her bearings but is cleverer than we think.
The elderly couple acutely manipulates the gang to turn on one another, culminating in a gravely injured Nathan and Gaz’s death at the hands of Mary. As Dr. Huggins patches Nathan up, Mary and Terry come to blows over Terry’s deer-frozen-in-headlights disposition during the earlier confrontation and go their separate ways. While Mary discovers that Dr. Huggins has killed Nathan, Terry is drugged by Mrs. Huggins.
The Hugginses conjure a game of cat and mouse to capture Mary and Terry. As Mary eludes their grasp and manages to take Mrs. Huggins captive, Terry is trapped with Dr. Huggins. Eventually, Mary manages to negotiate hers and Terry’s way out of captivity by offering Mrs. Huggins’ safety in exchange.
Just as they prepare to escape, Terry fatally shoots Mary from the back, and is subsequently taken to the safe. Meanwhile, Dr. Huggins explains to Mary that Mrs. Huggins experienced crippling loneliness after their daughter, Kate, went missing. To quell her loneliness, they ‘tried out’ (a euphemism for kidnapped) different children to replace their daughter. Only one struck a chord with them, who they named ‘Kate’ after their missing child. Terry will be joining ‘Kate’.
We soon realize that the safe contains not boatloads of money or a cornucopia of treasures, but a person, ‘Kate’. Look closely and we discover that ‘Kate’ is a dead-ringer for Mary. A tearful Terry locks eyes with ‘Kate’ as he is wheeled into the safe. Later, Terry’s mother conveys her worry about her missing son to the Hugginses, as they plant three new flower patches to cover up the bodies of the three dead intruders.
Who is Kate?
‘Kate’s’ likeness to Mary is no coincidence, metaphor, or glitch in the matrix; it is grounded in reality. ‘The Owners’ does its best to throw us off the scent with several red-herrings. Yet, throughout, the movie is cleverly peppered with a trail of breadcrumbs that inform, but never let slip, its big reveal. The end draws a well-orchestrated Eureka moment for the viewer.
When Mary confronts Terry about his scaredy-cat, non-confrontational demeanor, she reveals to us an important link to his past and their present. Terry was previously in a committed relationship with Mary’s twin sister, Jane (we must make note of the interesting name-pairing here). Mary claims that Terry’s infuriating behavior drove her sister up the wall and miles away from their hometown. While Terry denies that he had any part to play in Jane leaving town, Mary aggressively stands her ground.
This minutes-long interaction is enough to give us all the information we need: ‘Kate’ is actually Mary’s long-lost twin sister, Jane. While none of the characters explicitly make mention of Mary and Jane being identical twins, it is more than implied when multiple instances of mistaken identity take place.
A scene that clues us in is the altercation between Mary and Mrs. Huggins. When Mary attempts to flee what she suspects is a trap, Mrs. Huggins, in her muddled state, mistakes her for ‘Kate’ and prevents her from finding a way out. Further down the line, in a drugged stupor induced by Mrs. Huggins, Terry confesses his undying love to Mary, after confusing her with Jane.
Why did Terry kill Mary?
Again, the proof is in the pudding. When Mary holds Mrs. Huggins hostage in exchange for the house keys and a trapped Terry, we hear Dr. Huggins deftly negotiating with Terry. Bits of the audio are made intentionally inaudible so as to keep the big reveal under wraps. Dr. Huggins can be heard saying something to the effect of “I know where she is [inaudible]. All you have to do is [inaudible].” Dr. Huggins is no doubt dangling a carrot in front of a terrifying stick. He urges Terry to put a bullet in Mary, offering in return the possibility of reuniting him with his former love interest, Jane. Dr. Huggins, master manipulator and more psychologist than physician, ever so astutely, preys on Terry’s Achilles’ heel: his loneliness. Terry’s longing for companionship makes him the perfect mark for the Hugginses. Terry can’t resist the bait and falls for it hook, line and sinker, killing Mary and giving the Hugginses what they so desire. What Terry fails to realize, or intentionally puts out of mind, is that his reconciliation with Jane will come at the expense of his freedom.
What exactly are the Hugginses up to?
The Hugginses are so stringent in their ways and means, they bring new meaning to the term control freaks. No wonder then, that they do not take kindly to the intrusion. When their mansion is encroached upon by Mary and the gang, they stop at nothing to create a bastion of their carefully-constructed lives and regain control. They disguise their quest for revenge as a disciplinarian parent’s urge to teach one’s child a well-deserved lesson.
‘The Owners’ takes helicopter parenting to a whole new level. The Hugginses consider themselves to be strict, authoritarian parents and see the intruders as children in need of a thorough disciplining. Their politeness is less a farce or plot device and more of an intentional riff on the tone one takes with children. Like they would a child, they pacify, cajole, scold and distract their way into gaining the upper hand and besting the gang. Their mansion is even child-proofed with various entrapments. As if dealing with a child, they bait Terry with the most handsome of rewards if he submits to their demands. They eventually decide to reward Terry’s submissiveness and loyalty by letting him rejoin ‘Kate’. They consider it a win-win since their so-called child now gains a new playmate.
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