Friday, January 18, 2013


***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Martyrs – 4 out of 5  

Let’s be honest, American horror films and American audiences for horror films don’t really understand true, pants-browning terror. We see movies that are nothing more than a collection of loud noises that results in a small shock/jump (lovingly referred to as “found footage” films) and we think what we saw was scary. We believe because we saw someone lunge at another character or a cat jump out of a closet or a door slams shut that we saw terror. These films rarely result in an elevated heart rate or the potential to cause us to sweat or keep us up at night they way horror films used to. Gone are the days where horror films were crafted with a madman’s precision to make us lose sleep and avoid the oceans, birds, roadside motels or little girls with crucifixes. Instead we get nothing but flimsy gimmicks that are only out to get quick jumps out of you rather than truly make you frightened. Perhaps it’s the fact our attention spans are shorter than this sentence or perhaps it’s the fact we Americans are incredibly lazy but horror films are not what they used to be here in the States. However, there is still a refuge for movies that can make you truly scared. Movies that can make your heart race, your palms and forehead drip with sweat (and other orifices drip different fluids) and make you feel a level of terror and discomfort that Hollywood doesn’t even bother to try and achieve because it won’t translate to dollar signs to at the box office. Just watch any—seriously ANY—horror film from anywhere BUT the United States.

Like this.  This is scarier than all of Hollywood's movies.  I pooped a little looking
at it.

Martyrs is a story about a young girl named Lucie (Mylène Jampanoї) held prisoner and subjected to psychological and physical torture. Eventually she escapes and is placed within an orphanage where she barely speaks of the events that took place—with an exception to another orphan named Anna (Morjana Alaoui). Years pass and Lucie and Anna are older and Lucie is out for revenge against those that harmed her…sadly, Anna quickly discovers that the torment placed on Lucie was done for an altogether unseen, unexpected and far more sinister reason than ever predicted after she comes in contact with someone who only goes by the name Mademoiselle (Catherin Bégin).

I'm pretty sure Mademoiselle is a puppet of some kind.  And I don't mean that metaphorically.
I mean she looks like she is a real puppet.

When I first started this 2008 French/Canadian horror film the DVD came with an optional opening from the director/writer Pascal Laugier. Since I like to get the most from my DVDs I gave it a view and Laugier immediately set the bar very low for the film as he came off apologetic and spoke like he made an absolute shit film while he set the bar extremely high as he spoke about the film being very controversial and unsettling—yep, kind of a bi-polar opening from the director. While it’s not uncommon for directors to intro their movies on DVD it still isn’t very common. Usually we see this on 20th Anniversary releases or Director’s Cut editions and such but rarely on just regular missionary-position releases. This ends up becoming a double-edged sword because going beyond saying, “Hey I made this! Enjoy!” the director can quickly make the film look like it’s either the greatest thing ever made or just absolutely awful and he’s apologizing for it or giving a pre-emptive strike for you not liking it. Laugier managed to accomplish both by claiming he’s embarrassed for making the film but proud of it at the same time. After the intro, I did my best to forget it and try not to let it jade my viewing of the film—then the movie started and the intro could have been the director pulling a Mel Gibson and ranting about how Jews are controlling the energy drink industry in order to get us to have more energy so we can buy more stuff so they can get richer (Gibson said that right?) because this movie was so intense that it doesn’t matter what the director said in his intro.

Or maybe he should apologize for making the audience feel like they should be on a
sex offender list for starting the movie with this.

There's a lot of bad shit in this movie that I can't show
in the blog so here's a shot of a stuffed bunny.
Unlike American horror films (have you guessed yet that Hollywood's horror films disappoint me?), this movie wants you to be unsettled throughout the entire length of the movie and Laugier goes about it in several ways. The film opens with straight up ghoul-like creepiness as you try to figure out what exactly is happening to Lucie after she escapes the hell her young life was. The movie quickly moves, as the years pass, into visceral and raw shock and awe moments as Lucie confronts those who tortured her and then to gore porn levels of disgust as we learn that what happened was much worse than what could have been imagining. The story and visuals Laugier throws at you are meant not to illicit a single second of making your skin leap but to give you an hour and a half of your skin trying to escape your body and hide under the covers.

Something really scary...she looks like she's transforming into a fucked up version
of Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta.

Then there’s the terrific ending that does something else few American horror films do: Allow the audience to interpret and create their own conclusion. The ending provides an open mystery that lets you fill in the blanks and makes you a participant in the film rather than a passive viewer the way “found footage” or any modern American horror film (let’s face it, pretty much all American horror films are now the shitty “found footage” variety) allows. You won’t discuss the possible endings to The Devil Inside  but rather discuss why the hell you wasted both your time and money seeing such a boring, viciously uncreative film. Martyrs doesn’t do that. Instead it’s a film that opens the limitless possibilities of your imagination as you use the evidence within the running time to come to your own conclusion and make up your own resolution; a rare thing seen in not just horror films but movies in general.

Hmmm...the movie is making my captions for me.

Finally, it needs to be stated that Martyrs is violent and gory. As in really gory. As in it’s possibly you will be reacquainted with whatever you ate in the last few hours gory. It’s arguable that the film is deserving of the coined term “gore porn” but the violence and blood-splattered imagery that decorates the film is never there for the sole reason to be gory (like American gore porn does). The movie doesn’t employ a story to link together horrifying sequences like The Human Centipede II did but rather the awful, deplorable and downright unsettling torture sequences are there for the story and propel the horror that encompasses the film forward. Add that with some great acting from a relatively small cast and Martyrs becomes a horror film that does what 99% of Hollywood crafted horror films can’t do and that is creep me the fuck out.


  1. I like what you said about American horror these days and the state of "fear" they bring to their audience. But I have to wonder if this movie really brings something new to the table. It shows torture/disgust the entire movie, scaring the audience no doubt, but that's not new. American grindhouse cinema has a rich tradition of simply shocking the audience. And at least they had the semblance of a plot.
    I reviewed this movie also. I think it might be more of an outsider's opinion of the film. I would love some feedback on it from another critic.

    1. I appreciate the comment and I'm definitely checking out your fact, after I post this I'm reading it!


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