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Lucie, a 10 year old girl, is found wandering in the streets, bruised and bloodied. Unable to say who did this to her, or why, she is placed in a hospital where she meets Anna, another young girl who had been abused. Fifteen years later, with Anna s help, Lucie sets out to get revenge on her attackers. When she believes she has found the couple who abused her, she confronts them ...and that is when the terror truly begins.
Avoid, if you can, reading anything about Martyrs before viewing--this ultra-intense Canadian-French shocker benefits from discovering its horrors cold. In that spirit, we'll be discreet, except to note that only the most hardcore patrons of 21st-century torture cinema need apply for this one. A prologue depicts the escape of a child from an apparent house of enslavement, and one thinks of notorious real-life cases of people keeping children locked away in basements. But writer-director Pascal Laugier has a larger idea in mind, which we begin to discern when the story skips ahead 15 years. The kidnapped girl, now played by Mylene Jampanoi, is bent on a violent rampage of her own; her lifelong friend and minder (Morjana Alaoui) comes upon a bloody scene too late. The film takes too long to get to the next revelation, but when it does, a series of secret chambers begins to unfold in the narrative, and you might just feel your head spinning (if not your gorge rising). It would be inaccurate to call this pleasant, or even entertaining, but Laugier does at least have a serious purpose and some interesting ideas. The horrifying images he creates, however, raise the question of directorial judgment gone haywire. Give him credit, though: the DVD of Martyrs includes a brief introduction by Laugier in which he (good-humoredly) apologizes for the movie--fair warning for the faint of heart. --Robert Horton
Chroniques Organic: The Making of MARTYRS
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In the opening shot, a young girl, Lucie, is seen running for her life. She is clearly traumatized and appears to have been abused. Lucie (who is portrayed by Mylène Jampanoï as an adult) is taken to an orphanage and is discovered she had experienced years of physical abuse although there are no signs of it being sexual. At the orphanage, Lucie befriends another troubled girl, Anna (portrayed by Morjana Alaoui as an adult). Fifteen years later, Lucie, who is still severely scarred from her childhood experience decides to take revenge on the people who abused her and one day she storms in to the home of her alleged perpetrators armed with a shotgun and a mind full of vengeance. When Anna is summoned by Lucie for help, Anna's world takes a drastic turn and the minute she steps foot inside that house, she is one step closer to becoming ... a ...?
"Martyrs" is indeed a rare horror film. It is not the only film in the genre to display shocking scenes of human depravity and human suffering and outlandish gore but somehow it stands out amongst the many in the unpleasant torture genre. The film has multiple layers. Just when you think you know where the story is going, it takes a steep turn, and just when you think you have it figured out again ... nope, there is yet another turn and despite the outrageousness depicted on screen, the characters, specifically the 2 female leads, are fleshed out enough and likeable enough that we are totally immersed in their story and their survival and it makes their on screen misery that much harder to watch. The performances from the 2 female leads is riveting. Both Jampanoï and Alaoui show strong, gut wrenching emotions, never losing focus and the film's tone is consistently dark. So much so that there is very little room for humor here and even the 2 leading actresses' obvious physical beauty takes a back seat to the absolute brutality taking place on screen. This film is an overwhelming and brutal showcase of how ugly and visceral life can be for some and how rarely, is life's journey a pleasant one. Not to mention how destructive and diabolical man can be. The film is outrageous, however when reading about missing women who have been held captive for years, the most recent case involving the 3 missing woman in Cleveland, you come to the realization that this type of monstrous evil does exist and makes these types of film far more frightening than those slasher flicks with a walking dead killer holding a machete as the villian.
I have to admit that I read most of the reviews of this film. Considering its reputation, I felt I really needed to prepare myself for what I was going to watch and although I do not recommend this approach to all, I am really glad I did. I went into this expecting hell on screen, and although what I got out of it met my expectations, I did expect far worse so it lessened the punch. I guess the point of this is, if you go in expecting more, you may end up not being totally blind-sided by the disturbing images displayed and like some reviewers noted, you really have to be in the mood for this piece as it digs really deep into the darker side of the human condition.
Did I enjoy this film? I guess ... maybe? "Enjoy" is not an appropriate word here since no one can really claim they enjoy watching the suffering of others. I watch horror films because I like venturing into the darker side of things, I like exploring the unknown and unraveling mysteries and sometimes I want to be sucker punched. However after the light comes back on in a darkened movie theatre, or I turn off my DVD/BluRay after watching a horror film, with the exception of a few, most don't usually linger at the back of my mind for countless hours or days after viewing or leave me questioning the sheer brutality of man. This film did so I guess it is safe to state the film did its job. It is not for everyone but for those who want to witness something out of the ordinary, even by horror standards, and have a high tolerance for on-screen violence and torture, "Martyrs" is recommended but be warned, you may not be prepared to handle the tale it tells.
You get a directors into, teaser, a trailer and a making of the film for extras. The quality on this standard DVD is very good.
Other Amazon reviews offer a friendly piece of advice: "Avoid, if you can, reading anything about Martyrs before viewing--this ultra-intense Canadian-French shocker benefits from discovering its horrors cold." I followed that advice. I haven't even seen a trailer. What follows is my account of this film which was revered by some as being among the "10 most disturbing horror movies" and by Amazon as only advisable to "the most hardcore patrons of 21st-century torture cinema." I find over-hyping to be symptomatic of the breeding grounds of mediocrity. Does this film follow suit? No. Does it break free from the over-played mold? ABSOLUTELY! So I suggest you STOP READING THIS REVIEW UNLESS YOU'VE ALREADY SEEN THE MOVIE.
We are introduced to an underage Lucie escaping an abandoned building where she was kept captive, beaten and malnourished under destitute conditions presumably as a sex slave. Lucie ages through adolescence exhibiting damaged antisocial tendencies and self-destructive proclivities. 15 years later, Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï; Hereafter) pays a visit to her to childhood captors. She finds revenge, but no true satisfaction; only utter mental breakdown exacerbated by her surrogate tormentor, her demon-like anthropomorphized self-loathing and guilt. Anna (Morjana Alaoui) has been watching out for Lucie since they met in an orphanage. She arrives at the scene of Lucie's revenge. It's bad. Really bad. And Anna tries to help clean up the mess and keep Lucie out of trouble.
Just when you thought you knew where the story was going, another weird story arc falls in your lap...over and over again. This film is beyond bonkers, but executed intelligently. You find yourself caught between wanting to laugh at how senseless it all is and wanting to scream because it's frustratingly insane. But, by the end, everything feels well-linked together in hindsight; in fact, brilliantly so.
This film is rich in gore, visceral brutality, intensity, violence (against women; not sexual in nature), torture and desperation. There is also a fair bit of nudity. But it is presented more to embrace humility and vulnerability than perversion. Artfully handled, the nudity is an effective device that will elicit many feelings, none of which being arousal.
Pascal Laugier, the man to blame for The Tall Man (2012), wrote and directed this film. The Tall Man was an indecisively written film featuring an unreliable story, making for an unsatisfying waste of time drowning itself in too many loose plot elements. Did that happen here? Well...sort of but not really. Yes in the sense of the complete plot-based pandemonium, but which somehow neatly tied together in the end. No in the sense that I actually LOVED this film--whereas I hated The Tall Man.
Organized madness best describes Laughier's storytelling style. If you crave brutal intensity, let this film impress you.
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