OMG – I Watched Deadly Virtues!


Sales poster for Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey.

I watched Deadly Virtues: Love. Honor. Obey. last night because Elliot, the producer, asked me to.  I’ve never met Elliot, and about 8 minutes and 17 seconds into the movie I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to.  The movie was truly horrifying!!  But I pushed on through because I am a professional.  When I wrote my book, The Virgin’s Promise, I, perhaps naïvely, used examples of movies I liked, movies I could watch with my kids for the most part, because that was where I was at.  Safe.  This movie is not safe, but I wanted to see if I could see a Virgin structure in the film.  And there is.  Problem is, I cannot get the movie out of my head, it is so compelling.  Maybe the bigger problem is I ended up aligning myself with characters who do truly heinous things.  What does that say about me?!

If you can get to the end of this movie, and I highly recommend that you do (if I can do it, you can too!) you will be moved to think deeply about the relationships between husbands wives, the nature of power, and what the story is in our heads that allows us to accept certain behaviors in ourselves or in others.

This movie doesn’t leave you alone after you walk out of the theatre.  In a nutshell, there is a home invasion while a couple are having sex.  The man is trussed up and severed from a finger (the first of several physical tortures) while the woman is engaged in psychological terror where the invader tells her he wants her to want him like a wife wants a husband.  It is a story of transformation and it inspires self-reflection in the viewer, albeit it reluctantly in my case, long after you’ve seen it.  What the heck! kept going through my head.

Most people’s relationship circumstance will be nowhere near as bad as the protagonist, Allison’s, and she survives (hallmark of the horror genre so I don’t think I am giving too much away here).  This sets the bar pretty high and creates a certain safety zone for the viewer to honestly consider if the partner in their life sees and cherishes them as they deserve to be treated.  For men, the real horror may be the portrayal of an immature male and how acceptable it is in our culture (is the threat to his ownership of the real-estate in her vagina really the part we should be focusing on here?)  Is being a husband about benefiting from the womanly arts of a wife and getting what you want, when you want, the way you want it.  Or is it about cherishing a woman and offering your protection from physical danger, your ability to provide for her needs, and preservation of the space for her heart to thrive?  I pick door number two which is disturbing because I find myself aligning with a character who made my skin crawl in the beginning.  This is what makes the movie interesting.  It makes you question if it is more important to deal with the facts and live up to your promises or to trust your feelings and live up to your potential?

This is a Virgin story.  The thrill of the film is seeing the evolution of the protagonist from Victim to Virgin.  Virgin means to know you are of value for being yourself.  The whole world changes when Allison changes her mind as far as what she is worth as far as treatment from a man.  Structurally it is fascinating because the triggering event for the journey (ii) is not revealed until the end (Beat 3 – Opportunity to Shine).

So here is the real spoiler alert.  For all you writers and film enthusiasts out there, I am going to outline the Virgin structure of the story (as best I can remember it from one viewing because there is no way I can watch it again!).

Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. Trailer from Raindance on Vimeo.

1. Dependent World – Allison (Megan Maczo) is in a stereotypical marriage where she accommodates her husband’s directions so he doesn’t feel emasculated by her job success and she has a place in life.

2. Price of Conformity – she is going through the motions, trying to meet her husband’s sexual needs and a man enters the bedroom, hogties her, trusses up Tom (Matt Barber), her husband, in the bathtub and cuts off one of his fingers(this makes more sense at the end when you know how the home invader came to have a key).

3. Opportunity to Shine – not revealed until the end (see below)

4. Dresses the Part – Aaron’s (Edward Akrout) goal for the weekend is for Allison to want him.  He makes her dress the way Tom wants her to dress which is like a whore in that it is to please Tom rather than Allison.  He then asks her to dress the way she likes to dress which it turns out is the nature of her business.  Allison reveals she designs lingerie that makes women feel beautiful.  Then she chooses a dress and does her make-up as she is lured into experiencing what it feels like to be a cherished wife.  She dresses the part and becomes beautiful.

5. Secret World – It is a home invasion during which Tom, who had a key to the house and a note from Allison with the address, will be kept in the bathroom and punished through physical pain whenever Allison tries to escape or get help. Aaron will treat her the way Tom treats her on Saturday and then treat her the way Aaron feels a woman should be treated on Sunday.  Allison keeps going back and forth between the way Aaron treats her to the way Tom treats her, each time gaining more insight into what she is worth and what she has accepted in life.

6. No Longer Fits Her World – Monday morning Allison wakes up to the usual breakfast in bed and a sweet note from Aaron saying ‘whatever happens blame me’ which is kind and protective.  For a second Allison is confused about who he is in her life.  She snaps to her reality and goes to release Tom from bondage.

7. Two Worlds Collide – Tom is furious that she appears to have enjoyed the weekend and he becomes violent.

8. Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck – Allison recognizes that she deserves to be treated better than she is being treated by Tom and does not accept it.  Rather than appeasing Tom she slaps him to jolt him to see a boundary.

9. Kingdom in Chaos – Tom attacks Allison, destroys the items that are memories of their lost child and shows the magnitude of his immaturity. (see below)

10. Wanders in the Wilderness – Tom swings back to apologizing and wanting forgiveness and wanting sex and demanding Allison have an orgasm (metaphor for truly connect to him) as Allison struggles to rationalize her desire to be a good wife and her strong intuition to get away from this lunatic.

11. Choose Her Light – Allison smashes Tom’s head until he is unconscious and she has some space to think.  She pieces together that he has been cheating on her with her best friend, who is now pregnant.  Allison knows she is worth better than this.

9. Kingdom in Chaos – Enter the girlfriend who sees the blood and blames Allison for the affair.

12. The Re-order/Rescue – Allison tells the girlfriend that Tom is all hers.  She starts walking out of the house strongly attached to her self-esteem.

13.  The Kingdom is Brighter – The girlfriend begins to realize that Allison is right about Tom as he is suffocating her with a pillow because she is making too many demands on him, baby and all.

12. Rescue – Allison stalls at the door and seeing herself in her friend she returns, tells Tom to back off, and when he refuses, kills him with a hammer.

13. The Kingdom is Brighter – Allison tells her friend not to worry because there was a home invasion over the weekend and the man will take the blame for all that has happened.

3. Opportunity to Shine – A woman (Sadie Frost) gets a key cut for the house and has a momentary conversation with Aaron, the kindly key cutter, and shares a glance that reveals that she longs to be appreciated for who she is as a woman.  She writes her address down on a piece of paper as he requires and promises to return in an hour for the key.

Deadly Virtues does a great job of employing a Virgin structure to show the transformation of a protagonist from victim to a person grounded in their sense of self.  The order of the beats is not linear, and several beats are returned to creating depth and interest in this much more circular structure.  Thank you Elliot for leading me to this film.

End of blog.

Kim Hudson brings her groundbreaking screenwriting masterclass To Be Or Not To Be: The Virgin Question to London for the first time on November 8/9.

Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey
Elliot, these are more thoughts I had on your movie but I think this blog is already too long.  I include them for your interest and as fuel for future discussions.  Congratulations on a great film.

I understand the marriage vow Love, Honor and Obey on a new level now.  The downfall of the protagonist, what her torturer uses against her, is that she loved her husband and will not leave him.  As long as Tom is trussed up in the bathroom, he knows she will stay.  She will stay in a ‘mock marriage’ with him for the weekend.  In their marriage, she honors him by practicing her womanly arts, and she obeys him when he places demands on her, even when she is not comfortable.  The problem is when she stops there.  The feminine source of power is to turn her gaze inward and say ‘now that my actions have allowed my husband to reveal his true colors what do I feel about him?  Obeying creates an environment where a person is revealed in a tangible form.  Then the sequence comes full circle and she can ask herself ‘do I honor the man that he is revealing to me, do I honestly feel a pull towards him – a desire for connection that is love?  The feminine has this circular power and it is very different from the linear power of men to set a goal and assert their will to make it happen.  The feminine loves, honors and obeys and then notices if obeying has lead you to someone worth honoring and if she truly has feelings of love.  This connection to self is where her power is born, the power to be all that she is capable of being.

This is a retelling of the story of Little Red Riding Hood.  To understand why I would say this you would have to know the original telling of the tale as portrayed by David Kaplan’s version starring Christina Ricci.  It is the story of Little Red giving up her naiveté and learning to trust her feelings and intuition.  She would never win in a battle of strength, but she can outsmart him and inspire the wolf to his better self by turning her gaze inward and following her heart.

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