Director – Pascal Laugier
Cast – Morjana Alaoui, Mylene Jampanoi, Catherine Begin, Isabelle Chasse
Release Year – 2008
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Here’s a French horror film that debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2008 and really grabbed positive buzz that quickly snowballed this film into being one of the most talked about 2008 horror films. Not to mention that this film was only screened twice at the Cannes Film Festival! After hearing this buzz myself through my horror information channels I use, I decided I definitely had to see this film. After viewing “Martyrs” I do have to agree with basically very critique I’ve read about this film, everyone loves it!
The film begins with one of our leads, Lucie, escaping from a secluded warehouse and running frantically through the streets in hardly any clothing, and with visible blood and bruises adorning her body. Fast forward a little bit and she is being taken care of in a center for neglected and abused children. She makes friends with another little girl at the center named Anna. Anna is Lucie’s strength and shoulder to cry on, and is doing what she can to help authorities find out who abused Lucie. We are then introduced to the notion that there is a strange, demon creature who is following Lucie everywhere she goes, attacking her and tormenting her just like she was before she escaped her captors.
Fast forward 15 years later and the girls are out on their own. Lucie is out for revenge against those who tormented her in that lonely warehouse 15 years ago. Although she does technically get her revenge against those horrid people, she then gets Anna involved in the story behind her former captors, which is much, much bigger than they imagined. Anna is then thrown into the dark reality of what the people behind the abuse and kidnappings are all about. It is a sinister hierarchy of people with a goal in mind, a goal that they will need Anna in order to accomplish.
This film goes where most other films do not have the guts or the strength to go to. We see our two stars pushed to the very brink of sanity with the things they have to go through in this film. How on earth Lucie made it even one year with that demon thing following her is beyond me. Just wait until you see what I’m talking about…you wont be disappointed. This film takes off pretty quickly, with us seeing some intense stuff pretty early on into the movie. This film doesn’t shy away from the gore and brutality whatsoever. What I really enjoyed about the gore in this film is that it is “necessary” for the story of this film. Lots of times we see films with lots of gore, and its cool, but its pretty much thrown in there to please the fans who want to see it(like me!). With “Martyrs”, the gore we see in this film has everything to do with the plot and the movie. The story would not be able to develop into what it is at the end of the film without the gore and abuse that we see these girls go through. This is one of the more original films I’ve seen this year, and I really enjoyed how they were able to put all this great stuff into a film that we really haven’t seen before. Sure we have seen “torture” porn films like “Saw” and “Hostel”, but this film goes beyond that and has an original story not really having to do with murder like the films I just mentioned.
What happened with the story of this film kind of reminds me of what happened with “The Strangers”. The first half of the film is fast paced and scary, and the second half really changes the direction of the film in a way I(and fans alike) really did not like. The second half of this film is not bad whatsoever, it is actually a really interesting series of events involving the story behind why Lucie was kidnapped and abused. However, I would have preferred that the film finish off with the way it started, just downright terrifying and full of action and emotion. The film did slow down in the second half, but it was not to the point where it is so slow that it is boring. It simply felt slow due to the fact that the first half was so fast paced. Other than that I really have no complaints with this film, and I really do not consider it a “complaint”, because it was not a “bad” idea to finish the last half of the film the way they did. The second half was still interesting, and hey…maybe some of you will prefer it finishes the way that it did.
Overall, this is definitely one of the very best horror films of 2008, and quite possibly the best French horror film we’ve been given so far.
– I ranked this film #12 in my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(11-20) post.
– I ranked this film #2 in my Top 10 Horror Movies of 2008 post.