Horror and religion have gone hand in hand in film since the beginning of the genre, especially when it shows religion going to the extreme. The Daughters of Virtue is a 2017 short horror film written and directed by Michael Escobedo and tells the story of a prayer group gone seriously wrong.
Alice (Sylvia Panacione) is a lonely woman whose husband leaves her for business trips far too often. Due to loneliness, and perhaps something a bit more sinister, she has gone to bed with another man, who happens to be married to a woman (Rhonda: Brittany Samson) in her prayer circle. When the leader of the prayer circle (Betty: Maria Olsen) decides that Alice’s repentance day has come, it leads to an unexpected turn of events.
During the first twenty seconds of the film, Escobedo and his crew do a fantastic job of setting the tone in subtle ways. Alice’s reactions to her actions, the focus on her beloved cross necklace, the music, and title screen are all highly effective in doing this. I appreciate directors who aren’t afraid to be more subdued and know when to emphasize on the performances rather than falling back on overbearing music and sound to distract. So much intensity can build from quiet conversation and cues from body language and eye shifts, which is something The Daughters of Virtue executes well.
Actress Sylvia Panacione has a unique look and delivery that makes her appear fragile and ready to break at any minute. When combined with Maria Olsen’s fire and brimstone approach and Brittany Samson’s sadness turned to anger, it’s like feeling the rumbles and waiting for the volcano to erupt. And, it certainly does just that.
With a run time of just over twelve minutes, the film gives us a solid horror film that builds on intensity and delivers in the end. Escobedo is working on a feature length film for The Daughters of Virtue, which is definitely one I’d like to see made. I hope he’s able to bring the same cast back since I wanted to see so much more when the credits rolled.
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