Friday, May 01, 2009

Martyrs (Review)


Martyrs (2008)

Directed by Pascal Laugier

Well that wasn't what I was expecting.

After avoiding all the reviews and hype, I figured this was a classic run of the mill torture porn but taken to the ultimate extreme.

Boy was I wrong.

Martyrs has sort of created a new subgenre of horror. Uber-surreal torture-core.

Yeah I know what your saying. What the fuck is that?
Dude, I don't even know. But I can say this. This isn't torture porn like Saw or Hostel or any of the other "kill for the fun of it" horror.

It's a twisblended hybrid of the Argentoism, pure unrelenting grindy torture-core and horror taken to a transcendent level.

That's not to say I didn't have my gripes. It's almost pointless at times until you get to the end and figure what the whole thing is about. For 100 minutes, if you take the visceral challenge, you may have been a martyr yourself to a first. Uber-surreal torture-core horror.

Boring Plot-O-Matic

France. A night at the beginning of the 1970s.

Lucie, a little girl missing for over a year, is discovered wandering by the side of a country road.

Near catatonic, she can say nothing about what has happened to her. The cops quickly find the place in which she's been incarcerated - a disused slaughterhouse. Every indication is that she never once left the empty, freezing room in which she was imprisoned.

Filthy, starving, dehydrated, the child's body nonetheless bears no traces of sexual abuse - this was no paedophile abduction, but something far stranger.

What happened in that icy room? And how did Lucie escape?

Lucie is hospitalized - slowly she learns how to live again, an enfant sauvage gradually returning to the real world. In the hospital, she meets Anna, another little girl, and a victim of terrible abuse at the hands of her family. In no time, they are inseparable. Anna takes charge of Lucie, like a mother. As for her kidnappers, the police are at a dead end. Lucie's ordeal remains a terrible mystery.

One night, as Anna sleeps, Lucie hears an awful, rasping breathing. A vision appears: a body, naked, skeletal, tortured. Barely human. The apparition seizes her...

15 years later. A house, isolated in the middle of a forest. A family: Mum, Dad, two kids. A happy home. As they eat breakfast, there's a knock at the door. The father opens it to find a young woman, hollow-eyed and wraithlike and mad. In her hands, a rifle. "Remember the little girl I once was?" She shoots him where he stands, enters the house, and locks the door...

Minutes later, the family lie bloody. All dead. Lucie calls Anna, who tells her not to move, she'll be right there. In shock, Lucie hangs up. And then she hears it. That terrible, terribly familiar breathing...

Awesome Review-O-Matic

If you've seen Inside or Frontiere(s) or even Haute Tension, you know the French may be squeamish when it comes to war but not in their horror movies.

It be best to break this down like Kool Aid minutes. "Oh Yeah!"


The first 35......

The movie starts off in pure insanity as we see a teen Lucie escape from her abductors. We see a childhood friendship develop between the victimized Lucie and her new BFF Anna.It seems our baddies haven't been caught by the cops and poor Lucie is having nightmares of the monsters she left behind.

Fast forward to 15 years later and our French girls are now French foxes. And BOOM! like a mushroom cloud we get carnage. Lucie believes she's found those mofo's that tortured her.

Lucie is blasting Dad, mom, Peter Brady and Jan to kingdom come with a freakin shotgun. It's insane first few minutes.

I've never seen such bloody crassness in a while. Lucie goes all child-a-cide killing little swimmer Jan. It's so brutal, you may feel sick. But this is the new wave, and the Rottweiler French horror has gone postal. The beginning is pure mystery, Scooby Doo-ey in a way. Questions are raised. Who abducted and tortured poor Lucie? Is she sure this normal Brady bunch family did it? What is this thing chasing after her?

The next 35........

As Lucie gets bombarded by her dreammares, she starts to self mutilate herself. She starts to slice her arms, back and hand via figments of her torture-verse. Meanwhile, Anna starts to doubt Lucie's saneness and starts to Reservoir Dogs the mess thats been made by cleaning up bodies and calming Lucie the fuck down.

But Lucie has gone cuckoo and slits her throat.

Later, have a brief mourn Anna finds a hidden compartment and works her way down to a lab of horrors. She finds a deprived, almost corpselike body of a woman who she attempts to heal. But shits too late for her.

These scenes are like Lynchian and surreal blocks of fuckedupness. The woman is naked and scarred and has a device that has been nailed to her head that blinds her. It's almost like a death piece of art. The one thing most people have agreed upon is that it's breathtaking to see these images on screen. Nothing, and I mean nothing will prepare you for this level of sheer horror.

But I've always said, if I have not seen it before, that's a plus. And if it works within the boundaries of the film, then the amplification goes off the scale.

This all comes crashing down as our poor medievaled victim is blown away by the abductors.

The last 35........

Now Anna is told the experiment into martyrdom by an old lady. It seems the religious are not the only ones to experience the world of martyrdom.

And so begins the torture-core of Anna. It's by far a very difficult thing to watch. Almost bordering on the rape scene in Irreversible.

Anna is fed what looks to be pea soup, beaten constantly, forced to expel her self via a bucket and her head is shaved.

These constant fade ins and outs of Anna's torture are sick to the gut. If one can watch these 20 or so minutes, it's like a running a marathon of horror-core.

Though, how does one survive within the world of this film. She's lets herself go and accepts her fate. This is then leads to her torturers to skin her entire body except her face.

And in this act of letting go, she is the 4th to experience what the movie is about......

Seeing what lies after death.

Because as we are told, Martyr means to witness and that is what Anna becomes.

The thing about every torture porn like flick is you feel super duper empathy towards the victim. Every fiber in your being hopes the victim will go all Kill Bill and somehow escape and kill off the sicko killers. I had that inkling too. Maybe she would kill off these fucked up people and escape.

But that never happens....and seriously that's a good thing.

The whole point of Martyrs is to flip that shit upside down. The big bad evil at the end seems to have a religiously and scientific (sorta) reason of why they are doing this. It's not rich people or some old guy spewing out a "live your life" philosophy. Jigsaw is just evil and so are the wealthy Madoffs.

This world within Martyrs has cult like normals wanting to know what lay beyond. Does the end results justify the means?

Oh believe me, I still want all those people to get tortured and Abu Gharabed, but its almost Argento-y in a way where this insanity is logical.

This film isn't without its negatives. It paces way to long and drags and drags. It also destroys all logic (where the fuck are the police?) But the biggest gripe comes in that the torture that Lucie, Anna and the other victims go through seems pointless until the end. And even the revelation that this is an experiment into martyrdom and what lays beyond death is almost bordering on just being plain stupid.

Shit dude, this was the plot of Flatliners!

But it is a film thats spawned a new subgenre. Uber-surreal torture-core horror.

And that's an accomplishment.


Shotgun blasts
Sliced arms
Shotgun blast to the head
Corpse walking art
LOTS AND LOTS of torture
Skinned alive


I'm going to have to say tortured victim nudity doesn't count
Brief boobies from Anna

WTF moment

A skinned Anna witnessing

The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis

Martyrs is not as good as Inside which to me for now is the pinnacle of all that is French horror. But its new progeny Martyrs, it's as good as advertised.

Be warned, it's not a movie with any semblance of plot, or an in depth look into characterology or any sort of "horror" kills.

It's something new and that should be something we all need to witness.



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  1. I hated Inside, and I didn't like this. I feel bad because they're supposed to be the 'second coming' of horror or whatever.

    - Zac

  2. Jaded, I actually thought Martyrs was better than Inside, whose plot was thinner than Martyrs. Martyrs' plot was far more compelling. Inside's plot was minimalist and entertaining. I compared the two films in my Martyrs' review also.

    Martyrs is above and beyond torture films. I am in total agreement with you.

  3. I actually have this sitting at home from Netflix. I guess I'm in for a "treat". This should be quite the experience...

  4. cool information, thanks for the post!

  5. I saw this review and instantly got the film, and I have to say if this is the future of horror then I'm all for it. I was happily along for the ride till the plot kicked in... then I was hooked. Seen it 3 times in 24 hours now.

  6. Wow I'm glad my review had such an impact on ya. It's definitely on my top 10 list for 2009 (as it will be on others)

    Glad I could get you disturbed and scared shitless!

  7. Great review, I almost regretted seeing this, it really disturbed me. At one point my husband wanted to stop the film because watching the girl get beaten endlessly was getting to be too much for him.

  8. Robin - Hard movie to watch but one of the best horror movies of the last 5 years.

  9. I think you are giving it a little more praise than it deserves. The torture in this flick is good up to the half way point, but the rest of it is just a beat down. I've seen Lifetime movies with better spousal abuse. Pretty far off from torture porn like Saw. But I like your review style. You lay out all the "money shots" we horror junkies like. I'd appreciate it if you could check out my review of Martyrs and let me know how I'm doing.