Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey., 2014.
Directed by Ate de Jong.
Starring Edward Akrout, Matt Barber, Megan Maczko, and Helen Bradbury.
A shocking home invasion irrevocably changes the lives of all involved in ways neither victims nor perpetrator could have imagined.
Fifty Shades of Grey meets Funny Games in the latest movie from Ate de Jong, the Dutch director behind awesome cult favourites Drop Dead Fred (1991) and Highway to Hell (1992). Deadly Games: Love. Honour. Obey. is nothing like the zany comedy on display in those movies, but it does put a fresh spin on a formulaic sub-genre many horror fans find stale and predictable at this point.
That said, de Jong is a filmmaker whose career has thrived on unpredictability. Drop Dead Fred and Highway to Hell are prime examples of oddities that boast plenty of originality and are so far removed from the realms of ‘conventional’ cinema that they both feel refreshing still, nearly 30 years later. Deadly Games is admirable because it bucks the trend of home invasion movies which are known for their simplicity, but unfortunately its ambition isn’t enough to carry it towards the finish line.
The film stars Matt Barber and Megan Maczko as Tom and Alison, a couple whose coitus session is interrupted one night when a mysterious man enters their house and decides to make himself at home for the weekend. Tom is knocked out and bound in the bathroom, while Megan is tied up in the kitchen and given an ultimatum. Initially, it leads the viewer down the familiar path of ‘torture porn tropes’ we expect from a film like this; but just when we think we know what to expect it becomes a much different beast – a character-driven piece that’s a nice idea on paper, but ultimately doesn’t live up to its potential.
The main problem with Deadly Games is that it becomes a rather dull affair when it makes the switch. While it’s plain to see what the film is trying to achieve – and you can’t fault the movie for trying to transcend the exploitation barriers the sub-genre is renowned for – it’s just a chore to sit through for the most part. It feels unfair to criticise a movie for trying surpass torture and violence, but in this case, those are the only effective facets as the characters aren’t too engaging. However, that’s a nit-picky criticism based on personal preferences; as a seasoned horror fan who’s always looking for movies that are fresh and original, this seemed like a treat on paper, but it can’t maintain the momentum it starts out with and ends up failing to provide the thrills the genre can offer. But Deadly Virtues wasn’t made to try and please everybody, and it has resonated with just as many viewers as it’s put off. I can’t not recommend it, but it’s a missed opportunity.
The movie does contain some gnarly and disturbing moments, and its sexual themes are quite provocative. Additionally, the thematic elements and ideas on display do pose some food for thought, though the characters they’re presented through fail to make them connect. That’s through no fault of the actors; the performances across the board are absolutely fine, but the material they’re working with needs to be refined and reigned in. Credit must be given to the actors, however, for handling such difficult material with conviction. Furthermore, there is enough to take from the ideas on display to suggest that Matt Rogers is a screenwriter worth keeping an eye on, even if this doesn’t live up to the brilliance of the concept.
Overall, Deadly Virtues: Love. Honour. Obey. is a difficult movie to recommend, but it is worth taking a chance on for you to make up your own mind. The fact that it’s polarised public opinion is proof that it’s going to at least inspire a strong reaction from most viewers (our very own Luke enjoyed it more than me). Some of you will love, just as many of you will hate it; not many will be like me and fall somewhere in the middle.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★