Mar 7, 2009


With buzz circulating within the horror community about the over-privileged sea of French neo-feminist horror, Martyrs was just stock lined up to be fast tracked to an "Unrated" DVD cut available at your local Best Buy where the weak minds can stumble upon films that redefine "ultraviolence." This is funny in itself for the average viewer seeing as how the worst they've experienced is stocking stuffer garbage like Hostel, but in the comfort of their own living room they're treated with hyperactive scenes of misogynistic sadist nightmares that can only be described by horror's leading review experts as dully as possible. These releases allow for an influx of quote tags such as "Gorey," "A bloody roller-coaster," or any other spin off of the English language that could create a mirage thus deceiving you into purchasing just another horror film with women in their underwear.

Martyrs starts off as any film of this caliber would; a scene of a bloody running, screaming girl with incredibly short hair. This ritual of sorts establishes our heroine as a vulnerable being that eventually transcends fear and humanity and becomes a shell aided only by a little girl Anna. Leading experts would love to know what had happened to poor Lucie but nary a bit of evidence remains in the warehouse where she was held captive for little over a years time. Cut to 15 odd years later. We're shown a lovely suburban home with a loving family that tends to their young children's needs and enjoys gardening and such antiquities of the "American dream." Knock on the door. A slight expressionless face of the father. Boom. Hole blasted through his gut. A cloaked female figure steps over his mangled figure and proceeds to systematically execute his family in a horrendous fashion, devoid of emotion and style. Truly a horrific sight to behold although the serenity of the white walls calms you down from full malfunction.

From this introduction that thankfully wasn't abetted by classical music, were given glimpses into the story line and flashbacks to what actually happened to Lucie all those years ago. What's better is that we don't relive that much of what happened to Lucie, instead, Anna herself becomes a "martyr" in order to show us firsthand what transpired in those cells that reflect the clear and conservative terror that Cube brought to life. Tupperware has never seemed so prophetic before, has it? Martyrs has been called the opposite of Funny Games and I'd like to think that this assertion is absolute but I still find more substance in the ending of Martyrs than found in a rewind system of Funny Games, both past and present incarnations. Along with the striking cinematography of bright reds and abyss-like blacks that accompany most French horror, more than odd elements stand out that echo Natural Born Killers and Bonnie & Clyde. The pairing of Anna and Lucie bring about some awkward cooperative bonding scenes that seem almost out of place. Well, ultimately the effect is nulled upon discovery that both characters were necessary for each other. It all turns to shit with that doomed kiss.

With that one kiss that seems to cemented in the "culture" of French horror, both these martyrs were flying first-class into a life of sin. Lucie was condemned anyhow seeing as she murdered a 15- or so year old girl and a fashionable 18-something male that had his life ahead of him. If Martyrs acquiesced to one task, it would be issuing a warning against wandering womanhood and the perils of lesbianism. As Anna was shot down, Lucie looked perplexed at the action. It's as if she lacked any form of sexuality, which I'm sure was correct. Just when Martyrs has built atmosphere and died down like a simmering flame, the story seemed to drive into the soil. Nothing could come out of what had been left. The obstacles had been cleared out but just like that, a phoenix rose out of the ashes and shook embers off its glorious plumage. For the incredible wordplay, know that I'm not in love with Martyrs - I'm just in love with the final moments of the film.

To avoid spoilers, I'll be discussing much of the impact and resolution in comments if needed be. Martyrs is a film that needs immediate disclosure during the credits. Don't turn off the film. Don't get up. Don't alter your existing environment in any way, shape, or form. For this reason, I pity those who experienced this in the theaters. For an enlightened and heightened mind set, no distractions are mandatory. Sit still and listen to the somber track scroll through its run time and the credits scroll upwards into the inevitable oblivion. Martyrdom is a metaphor for the pacing of this piece of cinema. First, you feel uncomfortable but wary enough to venture deeper into the darkness. The abuse collects and soaks. Sensory deprivation is up next followed by the annihilation of humanity and free will - Absolution upon the ending. Martyrs is an extremely flawed (not) horror film that is blessed with an ending that has "that stare." The kind that makes you question the previous events that only recently unraveled. A truly uncomfortable cinematic experience that is plagued with death at every corner but unearths beauty behind sacrifice. This film braves the clichés that comes hand in hand with the new wave of French horror.



Keith said...

I've been really wanting to watch some French horror. I'm always hearing so much about it. I want to see how much is hype and how much is for real.

thebonebreaker said...

Awesome News!

I've been waiting to see this one, especially since it is by the same director who is helming the Hellraiser re-make. . .

Fox said...

Lucie was condemned anyhow seeing as she murdered a 15- or so year old girl and a fashionable 18-something male that had his life ahead of him.

I'm glad you mentioned this. I remember some discussions after I saw this movie - it was in a theater - and many of the geeks kept shrugging off a point that seemed to really bother me.

How did Lucie feel morally correct in murdering her abusers kids? And she did so without pause. Right there, that eliminates a lot of the sympathy you have for her character... at least, for ME, it did.

I mean, yes, she deserves to be a crazy lady on a rampage after what she experienced, but still, I felt that kind of contradicted with the way Laugier wanted to portray her.

Nice review mAQ. I hate this goddamn movie, but you did a great job riffing on it. Both of you guys keep impressing me daily.

nellie the elephant packed her trunk and said good-bye to the circus, off she went, with a trumpitty trump, trump, trump, trump. said...

this film is a stunning masterwork, it is unmittigated genius from first frame to last. The irony is that it is also a hideous abomination that should never be veiwed by anyone ever again.