Sex (more specifically sexual assault) and horror have always walked a controversial path together, perhaps because horror is the one genre not afraid of displaying the less palatable aspects of human behaviour. A frenzy of controversy faced a whole heap of exploitation movies in the 70s, directed most famously towards I Spit On Your Grave and Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left. Since then, attitudes towards freedom of expression have changed, but that doesn’t mean that the controversy has gone away, just look at the recent furore surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey and you’ll see what I mean.
Deadly Virtues: Love, Honor, Obey is a movie certain to bring all of these issues bubbling back to the surface… Set almost entirely in an innocuous suburban English housing estate, the movie begins with a man entering the home of a married couple whilst they’re upstairs having sex. He proceeds to bind the couple and torture the husband in front of the wife over the course of a weekend. Then, events take an unexpected turn that throws preconceptions into disarray and muddies the clear waters of morality.
It’s this twist that sets the film apart from other home invasion films like Funny Games or You’re Next, adding the extra intrigue of a what if? scenario. There’s also quite a lot of grizzly nastiness to be seen and fairly graphic sexual scenes. The main antagonist is fairly captivating, as he freely reels off intellectual quotes, switches between psychopathic and charming from one moment to the next and has a certain sex appeal about him, which does make you question the ethics of what you’re watching. The film doesn’t shy away from showcasing fetishes either – shoe fetishes, roleplay, ropework, bondage… it’s all in here to titillate and excite.
But does it work? Well… to an extent. The main problem is that it’s all just not quite engaging enough. Although it is an interesting satirical exploration of the family unit and the institution of marriage, there’s quite enough peril or suspense to keep you properly invested in the story. Also, easily the best acting performance comes from the husband, who provides much needed emotional impact but remains vocally absent for most of the film. There’s also an uneasy sense of white knight syndrome that is left frustratingly unresolved. Trying to do something original with the set up is commendable however and it is watchable, entertaining and thought provoking.
3 / 5
Deadly Virtues: Love, Honor, Obey is directed by Ate de Jong and stars Megan Maczko, Matt Barber and Edward Akrout available now on major VOD sites.