Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DVD Review: Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs no stars
Directed by:
Pascal Laugier
Written By: Pascal Laugier.
Starring: Morjana Alaoui (Anna), Mylène Jampanoï (Lucie), Catherine Bégin (Mademoiselle), Robert Toupin (Father), Patricia Tulasne (Mother), Juliette Gosselin (Marie), Xavier Dolan-Tadros (Antoine), Isabelle Chasse (The Créature), Emilie Miskdjian (La Suppliciée), Mike Chute (Homme / Bourreau), Gaëlle Cohen (Femme de main), Anie Pascale (La femme), Jessie Pham (Lucie as a child), Erika Scott (Anna as a child).

I think by now, I have proven my credentials as a horror movie lover. Since I began this blog, I have defended the new Last House on the Left, given positive reviews to Donkey Punch and Frontier(s) and even devoted an entire post to the difference between torture porn, and movies that use torture in a legitimate way. I say this because the review I am writing now is for the French film Martyrs, a despicable, disgusting, horrendous film that serves no purpose that I can see other to watch a beautiful young woman being slowly tortured to death for our amusement. Dear reader, I was not amused.

The movie opens promisingly enough, and actually for its first half is a fairly good little horror film. As a child Lucie was kidnapped and tortured for more than year, before she was finally able to escape. Now, 15 years later, she is sure that she has discovered her victimizers, and is determined to make them pay for what they did. She barges into their home with a shotgun, and guns down the married couple who tortured her. She then proceeds to gun down their children, who although they didn’t torture her, and were in fact too young to be involved, she hates anyway. After that, she calls on her only friend Anna to come to the house and help out. Anna arrives and is horrified by the carnage that she sees all around. And then things take a wild left turn that if you don’t want to know then stop reading now – there is no way I can review the movie and not discuss it.

Lucie has been driven mad by her torture all those years before. When she escaped, she had a chance to rescue another woman who was also being tortured, but did not. Haunted by her guilt, she sees this woman coming after her in the house, until Lucie can take no more and kills her. Anna, now left alone, explores the house and finds an underground lair, filled with huge pictures of human suffering. Worse still, she finds a woman chained up in the basement, with a mask literally screwed into her head. Anna tries to help her, but it’s of no use. Soon, a group of people arrive, and kill the woman, and take Anna to the basement where they explain why it is they do what they do.

It seems this a group of people obsessed with death, and with martyrs. They want to know what comes after death, and they think that by systematically creating martyrs they can get a glimpse into the afterlife. They kidnap young women, because they make good martyrs. So of course, Anna, is going to be their latest experiment.

What follows makes all the disgusting stuff that happened in the movie pale by comparison. Anna is forced fed gruel, beaten endlessly, taken into an operating room and ritualistic skinned alive, hung from a rack under hot lights, and still the torture continues.

What is the point of this movie? Why does anyone need to subject themselves to this type of crap? I am no prude by any definition of the word when it comes to horror movies, but I do expect that if I am going to be asked to witness terrible, disgusting acts, that there is some sort of purpose in mind. This isn’t a movie where we can relate to Anna, because she is presented as nothing but a piece meat. That the torturers are doing it with some sort of higher purpose in mind is meaningless to me.

That the film is well made, well acted and a legitimately good, perhaps even great, first act doesn’t lessen my hatred for the movie, it just makes it all the more vehement. If nothing else, it proves that the people behind the movie are skilled and smart – smart enough to know better than to take this movie where it goes. This is vile, evil, reprehensible film. I felt dirty after watching it – the type of dirty that doesn’t wash off in the shower.

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