A young woman’s quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child leads her and a friend, who is also a victim of child abuse, on a terrifying journey into a living hell of depravity.
We’ve been through this before. A film comes along that gets talked about, featured and anticipated months before a single copy emerges. Those who have seen it most likely experienced per a screening. Then as we expect to see it turn up for public viewing it still remains shrouded in mystery except for a lucky or chosen few. We’ve also seen the case in point (“Captivity” as an example ) of a film that merely runs this course for marketing purposes and when finally revealed is a complete let down.
Martyrs is the exception.
While talks carry over on a release date, It wasn’t till actually obtaining A copy per a French source contact that I was able to get an early copy for review. No advance screeners were sent. No invitations.
Martyrs I’m guessing will be talked about for quite some time. Writer / Director Pascal Laugier did an amazing thing. He was able to cross taboos with intensity in a way that is brutal, depraved and spiritual all at the same time. You might remember a similar incident when the film “Passion of Christ” first arrived on the scene. But make no mistake, this is as horrific as it comes and just like a traffic scene ending in a massacre you won’t be able to veer your eyes away.
By now we have seen our share of torture and mindless violence on screen served up cold and heartless. In fact, it’s fair to say that it has almost becomes boring and cliqued in many circumstances. A hand gets sawed off, an eyeball jabbed, a brain eaten ..so what right? Horror films have repeated this process to the point of redundancy. Martyrs does an interesting thing. It gives you pieces that never fully connect till the last frame of the film. You get the brutality, the rage, the monsters, the acts and yet most of the time you feel like your as in the dark as the victims on screen. You wonder why, how, when and if…. In a way that lack of fully served up answers is as unnerving as the torturous visuals themselves. This is not only brilliant but originally engaging in a whole new way. Martyrs has purpose and that’s what makes it so dangerous to your senses.
Now to fully review this film please note that spoilers will be mentioned from here on.
A girl running through the streets screaming. Obviously a victim of torture who has found freedom. Then the news reports come of building 1 where it all happened. The equipment, the rooms, and the evidence presents pretty clear what went down. Our victim is Lucie Juroin (Mylène Jampanoï), who escaped the unthinkable endurances inflicted on a young girl. Chained, malnourished, dehydrated, subjected to hypothermia and abused without sexual abuse. As she moves forward in life, she is raised in a local orphanage and cared for living with the horrors of her past. While recovering she becomes best friends with a girl by the name of Anna (Morjana Alaoui ). Anna is quick to bond as she cares for Lucie and the pains of her past. Though Lucie seems to carry demons with her in the result of a monster who torments her, follows her and inflicts pain.
15 years pass and Lucie has found an avenue for vengeance as she takes out an entire family without compassion, remorse or forgiveness. It appears that we have arrived at retribution coming full circle, though it runs much deeper than that. Ann comes to the rescue to clean up the mess and try and cope with her friends vengeance streak though circumstances still leave doubts. Those doubts will quickly fade as the film progresses. Yes, there much more to see, more pain, more suffering and somehow Laugier has the ability to make us share in that suffering rather than just as a spectator.
New ideas are introduced and confusion runs even deeper as discoveries are made with victimizing becoming painfully real. Hats off goes to the FX team who managed to create some of the most disturbing body abuse makeup I’ve seen on screen to date. And just when you thought you’ve seen the worst of it, it gets even worst. Makeup artist Benoît Lestang not only did the job but made it believable. That believability is also what helps sell this film. The whole production sings and works like a well-oiled machine. Original music by Alex and Willie Cortés is outstanding and makes for a great stand alone soundtrack. Acting performances not only make the film but also introduce a sense of rage on screen that’s a feat in itself.
At this point I don’t want to reveal the ending as it needs to be experienced from start to finish to get the scope of the film. Though I will say it will stick to your ribs for many days after. This is what makes a film a piece of art. Martyrs is brilliantly diabolical, chilling and thought provoking. Easily one of the year’s best!