Published on April 24th, 2018 | by Brando Quiring0
A horror film review, wherein Brando gets really mad about the 2008 movie, Martyrs, from the New French Extremity Movement. Ah, the cinema of trangression.
Editor’s Note: Caution! Here there be spoilers!
I watch movies that are pretty messed up sometimes.
I do it on purpose and I really don’t know why.
For the most part, this is a good thing for those around me, as I can act as a cautionary tale to other people who wanna crawl down the rabbit hole of video nasties, to see what exists in the sub-basement of the dark side. Most times I watch stuff that doesn’t shock me and doesn’t make me sick, and I have moved past that. But every so often, I’ll come across a film that makes me angry. Angry that it tricked me into wasting a perfectly good damn morning with its (almost) preachy, transparent, sadistic bullshit.
Martyrs is one of those movies.
Martyrs is an award-winning French horror movie from 2008, that focuses on a girl who was held prisoner in a warehouse, from which she eventually escapes. This girl (Lucie), meets another girl, Anna, in a mental hospital following her escape, and the two become super close. Little does Lucie know, but her new BFF is actually a traumatized piece of walking scar tissue, who sees demons and has a penchant for slashing people with a straight razor.
Lucie and Anna’s friendship spans the length of 15 years, and during this time, Lucie is trying to remember exactly who it was who held her captive, and then track them down to reap bloody revenge. Of course this is exactly what ends up happening: off screen she discovers who they are, shows up at their house and shotguns them and their children to bloody death, and what follows is 40 minutes of two homeless girls camping out in a house full of murder victims.
Following some gratuitous straight razor action, Lucie ends up attacking her one and only friend with a sledgehammer, as she starts to think that Anna doesn’t believe that there is actually a zombie/demon girl that is stalking her and attacking her with a box cutter (There really isn’t, which is painfully obvious). Weird. Following a lot of screaming and crying, Lucie kills herself, as she can no longer handle the delusions that are haunting her.
Following Lucie’s suicide, Anna is thrown into the depths of the horror Lucie experienced when she discovers the murdered family’s super-secret torture dungeon, (because of course super-secret torture dungeon) complete with a girl who has clearly had a bad time, as she is covered in wounds, and has a bunch of crap bolted to her face.
Anna tries to help the poor girl, but all that yields is more gore for the audience. The girl dies and we finally arrive at the transcendent third act. The one that gets all the praise, the one that won 7 out of 8 awards. And it consists of Anna being tortured for 40 minutes until she is taken beyond sanity and sees God and then the movie is over.
What passes for this movie’s plot can really be summed up in a few sentences as there really isn’t one beyond the initial setup. We discover there is a secret society that is torturing girls because of a super pretentious curiosity about what it is that makes someone a martyr, and what goes on in the human brain when they are pushed beyond their limits of suffering.
Which is what left me angry.
Martyrs is a voyeuristic romp filled with torture porn and traumatic violence that is only thinly veiled by some kind of quasi-religious themes, that only serves to give the filmmakers licence to show girls being beaten and cut up on screen, presumably because that is what they are interested in. This film exists solely to present tragedy and pain with only the slightest hint of a cohesive story.
There is nothing deep or meaningful about flaying someone. It doesn’t make it art if she pees on the floor first. It’s not packed full of meaning if there is no dialogue. It isn’t an incredible cinematic achievement because she sees God. It’s heartless and cruel, and exists only to thrill people who get enjoyment out of watching people have violence perpetrated against them, and then justifying it by saying something stupid like, “but dude, it’s like…the meaning of everything.”
But it isn’t the meaning of anything. It’s just 99 minutes of snot-crying and cutting and bleeding. It is soulless and punishes you for investing your time in it and ends with you having learned nothing beyond the fact that you never want to watch Martyrs again.
Oh, and before you ask, of course it got a fuckin remake in 2015. Because: reasons.