Deadly Virtues: Love. Honour. Obey. (2014)
Directed by: Ate de Jong
Written by: Mark Rogers
Starring: Edward Akrout, Matt Barber and Megan Maczko
“A stranger breaks into the house of a couple, ties up the husband and, having a whole weekend at his hand, plays a slow game with the woman, a game of threats, fear, obedience – and intimacy.”
People often complain about excesses of sex and violence in the horror genre but, in truth, it’s rare that these two elements are successfully brought together on screen. Films like Zombie Strippers (2008), Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1998) and Nightmare Sisters (1988), whilst attempting to blend those genres that titillate and terrify, usually end up producing a concoction that doesn’t excite on any level.
And, I must admit, during the first few moments of Deadly Virtues: Love. Honor. Obey., I did worry that the filmed sex was going to prove as disappointing as the experience usually is in real life. In the first moments of the film we discover it’s a Friday evening and we are following a mysterious figure entering a suburban home. Clearly he has no right to be there, as is suggested by his furtive manner, his penchant for sniffing the shoes that he finds in the house, and the fact that the owners are oblivious to him.
We know the owners are oblivious because, although they’re off-screen, they’re engaged in the sort of noisy sex that would make most neighbours believe the couple were watching one of the Saw movies. Or strangling an unwanted piglet. The unseen man grunts and wheezes like an asthmatic bulldog humping a reluctant chew toy. When the intruder bursts in on the scene the tension of this movie really kicks in and we, the audience, begin a rollercoaster ride of genuine horror. The cast in this film do an excellent job.
We first meet Tom (Matt Barber: Downton Abbey, Dracula and Being Human) whilst he’s behind his wife, banging away at her with a level of mechanised ferocity that seems to indicate more industry than intimacy. Tom is taken out of the equation early on in this film but his presence remains as a focal point for some particularly pleasing torture and abuse. At the same point when we meet Tom, we’re also given our first glimpse of Alison (Megan Maczko: Me and Orson Welles, A Hologram for the King and The In-Between). If Tom looks like he’s an overenthusiastic participant in the intimacy, Alison looks like she’d rather be grouting the kitchen. As the story progresses we learn there are lots of things Alison would rather be doing than Tom, but I won’t give away any spoilers here.
The final member of the cast is the sinister intruder, Aaron (Edward Akrout: The Hollow Crown, The Borgias and Mr Selfridge). Aaron is a man of mystery, a master of shibaru and an extremely focused (if uninvited and unwanted) houseguest. From the first moment when he has Alison alone, when he says, “You belong to me now,” he comes across as a dangerous and unpredictable threat. Perhaps he’s best summed up in the exchange where Alison sobs at him, “Why are you doing this to us?” Aaron laughs confidently and simply responds, “Why not?”
From beginning to end this is a film that pushes boundaries and explores the very real horror of assault and sexual violence, as well as the vast difference between sex and intimacy. The acting is superb. Mark Rogers’s script is strong and credible and Ate de Jong’s direction is flawless. For narrative tension, for an unsettling sense of realism and for a disquieting sense of menace, this is a film that will genuinely make you squirm in your seat.