A lonely housewife fears for her life when a women’s prayer group meeting turns into a fanatical intervention to rid her soul of evil.
The Daughters of Virtue stars the magical Maria Olsen, who leads our prayer group as the overbearing Betty (who looks eerily similar to Mrs. Trunchbull). The rest of the housewives include the acting talents of Milly Sanders (Cynthia), Melanie Cruz (Janet), Sylvia Panacione, (Alice), and Brittany Samson (Rhonda).
Director Michael Escobedo grew up as an expatriate, spending the first 18 years of his life living all over the world. Having being exposed to so many varying cultures, Escobedo wanted to focus on a demographic mostly foreign to him and one rarely explored within the realm of horror stories: the Midwestern housewife. The film has been very positively received on the festival scene and a feature-length version is currently under production. Escobedo had this to say about the film:
I am proud of the wonderfully diverse cast and crew we assembled to make this female driven horror film, a term we embrace. Every day working on this film was a pleasure and I hope that it shows on screen.—
It is not often that you get to identify with a horror film on a personal level — I guess that in most cases, that would be a bad thing. The Daughters of Virtue struck a nerve, a very deep and painful one. The film centers around Alice, a perfidious housewife, whose prayer meeting turns from a pleasant tea-time gossip into an unwarranted exorcism coupled with varying amounts of confusion, fear, betrayal, and judgment.
It was those self-righteous, judgmental stares that really brought back memories of my own, unwanted exorcism. I was sixteen at the time and lived with my deeply religious family. I'd just suffered my first night-terrors and sleep paralysis and, obviously, these were related to me being possessed by demons. I found myself sitting in our living room with the priest, my mother, and all the church elders; old, conservative assholes exactly like Olsen's Betty. I had hands all over me, forced to confess about my (very recent) sexual activities that I was no longer a virgin. The looks of condemnation were intolerable. I was told that I was possessed through my premarital sex and was “forced— to accept JC as my lord and saviour (again).
The acting is emphatically on point and Escobedo flawlessly captures the ugly reality of these cancerous, festering groups. There is always that self-righteous arrogance thinly veiled by the perception or virtue and godliness; people who care solely about seeming perfect and pious while inside are suppurating, censorious, and self-serving. The message Escobedo is trying to send is muddied somewhat by the film's conclusion, but it was a nice twist and a very well done scene. I was left with a very mixed bag of emotions — in part due to my own experiences.
I'm very interested in the direction and narrative the film will take in the feature-length version; I can see how it could make for a tense, emotional roller coaster and will definitely be keeping my eyes and ears open. For now, I can't recommend this wonderful short film enough. Try and catch it as it does its festival rounds. Thanks for reading and stay sordid.
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