“Deadly Virtues” (2017): Unexpected and Satisfying Twist-Filled Surprise

The one rule that almost all horror movies have in common is that the terror usually takes place on a dark and stormy night: It’s a rare scare that works well in the light of day.

Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. is a near perfect exception to that rule.

Directed by Ate de Jong, the film tells the story of a seemingly happy suburban couple whose life is shattered when a stranger breaks into their home, ties the husband up in the bathroom and spends the weekend playing a sadistic game of torture/seduction with the wife.

It’s pretty clear from the first few minutes of the film that lighting is only one of the horror movie traditions (some may say clichés) that the director is taking aim at with Deadly Virtues. For example, the bad guy, played chillingly by Edward Akrout, never comes across as a raving psycho or over-the-top maniac; he’s actually quite charming. Methodically brutal and icily cruel, it’s true, but charming and because you somehow like the guy despite what he is doing to the wife and husband (Megan Maczko and Matt Barber), the creeped-out factor you get while watching the film gets cranked up to 11.

Likewise, the film plays with your sentiments regarding the husband, Tom. It’s hard to not feel bad about a guy who is hogtied in the bathtub at the mercy of a master torturer who barely shows any emotions as he removes a finger or two from his victim when he doesn’t do as he’s told. The more you learn about the husband, though, the more you kind of root for the stranger to take a little something bigger than a finger the next time he disciplines ‘poor’ Tom.

A movie like Deadly Virtues needs more than just a cold-hearted killer and a bound and gagged victim to work, though, and that’s why Maczko mesmerizing performance as the wife, Alison, is so crucial to the film’s overall success. Even when she is being brutalized by the stranger, you can see the fight in her eyes: She refuses to play the victim. Considering the very painful looking things the stranger (and the director) put her through in Deadly Virtues, Maczko deserves high praise indeed.

The film seems to stumble a bit as the weekend rolls along. The tension level never drops, but you can’t help trying to figure out the finale as the story reaches its climax. The one thing the stranger tells Alison that will let her and her husband wake up alive on Monday morning is that she convinces him that she honestly desires him as much as she desires her husband. It’s a strange request at the beginning of the film, hinting at some darker depths to the story. The underlying meaning and importance of the stranger’s request grows more and more ominous as the Sunday night deadline approaches.

The final twist — or twists — that de Jong gives the story is both unexpected and, for the most part, enormously satisfying. Some may quibble with the effectiveness or satisfaction of the penultimate scene that reveals how the weekend really ended, but nobody watching Deadly Virtues can deny that the final shot is an absolute jaw dropper.

Deadly Virtues 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

John Black
John Black still remembers his first horror movie, sneaking in to a double-feature of Horror House with Frankie Avalon and a Boris Karloff film he can’t remember the name of but will always remember for giving him his first glimpse of cinematic nudity as one of the actresses moved from the bed to the door without putting on any underwear! (Fond family memory: That glimpse, when discovered by his parents, cased John’s mom to call the theater and yelling at the manager for letting her son see ‘such filth’.) Luckily, John was more impressed by the blood and horror than the bare haunches and quickly became a devotee of the genre.

John has been a professional movie reviewer since 1987, when his first review – of a Robert De Niro film called Angel Heart – appeared in the entertainment section of The Cape Codder newspaper. He’s been writing about film ever since, primarily now as the entertainment editor at Boston Event Guide. Hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t watch at least one movie, which is how he thinks life was meant to be.