We’ve Come For Your Daughters!
From producer Zahida Kazar comes the new short film, Daughters of Virtue. The film won the Best Horror Short award at the 2017 Nightmares Film Festival.
Directed by Michael Escobedo, the director of 2010’s critically acclaimed thriller Dark Woods, Daughters tells the story of Alice (Sylvia Panacione – 8213: Gacy House, Kill Katie Malone), a lonely housewife who begins to fear for her safety when her bible studies group decides that they need to take drastic measures in order to protect her soul from the influence of evil forces.
Leading the bible group is “Betty”. Portrayed by actress Maria Olsen (Starry Eyes, Southbound), “Betty” seems to be the overly devout, overly stern type that the other members of the group generally feel that they desperately need to impress or please. The entire group seems to be uptight, prudent, and maybe a little judgemental, which really isn’t all that surprising given the setting. However, possibly unlike the others, Betty’s devotion to her faith and its obligations isn’t just for appearances.
The tone of the group quickly turns sour, and even threatening. While most of the group seem to be concerned for Alice’s “well-being”, Betty believes that much more nefarious forces are the cause of Alice’s “issues”. She openly “worries” about the effect that unconfessed sins are taking on Alice’s soul. And there is indeed guilt and sorrow weighing on Alice.
The film does a great job of steadily building the tension. The performances are quite good, with Olsen giving an exceptionally creepy edge to the role of “Betty”. This woman has horror stardom written all over her as she just looks like someone who would perfectly fill the shoes of a religious zealot (as portrayed here), stern headmistress, or other (seemingly) sinister person of authority or power. Her performance carries the film, with “Betty’ becoming quite imposing once she reaches the stage where she starts spouting off about demons and the “infernal pits of sin”.
While it is worth noting that clothing, decor, and even a Fisher Price baby monitor used in the film are straight out of the early 1980’s, the film does not follow the bandwagon trend of trying to emulate the “feel” of the films from that era, a claim that many are exceptionally proud of making, but most fail to achieve. More noteworthy, at least to this particular reviewer, are the title font and musical cues used in the film, which feel as if they were ripped from a late 60’s/early 70’s Gothic horror, even somewhat reminiscent of those used in Hammer and Amicus films.
While Daughters of Virtue does a notable job of focusing on its story and steadily ramping up the tension, the ending fails to meet the intensity level leading up to it. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “disappointment”, it just can’t match up to the pressure-cooker of unease and dread created by the moments preceding it.
Daughters of Virtue is reportedly being developed as a full length feature. While I usually disagree with such decisions, a longer run-time may work to the story’s benefit as it would make for a fitting “slow burn” of a tale. It may also be beneficial in that it also gives the director and producers more time to flesh out the ending so that the story doesn’t feel as rushed or unresolved. It would also give its stars more of a chance to shine, which may be all it really needs.
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