Martyrs Screamfest's closing film, is a horror film in the truest sense. If there was a film that could injure the viewer’s brain just by being watched, this just might be that film. Imagine, the last film you saw where there was a scene that made you think: “I can’t believe they just did that”. Most films have one or two of those moments if they’re lucky. Martyrs feels like it’s 90 minutes worth of those moments stitched together. Each one more horrific than the last.
Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) is on a quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child. Anna (Morjana Alaoui), her only friend follows her, on her terrifying journey into the depths of hell itself.
That synopsis is the best I can think of, and yet it doesn’t even come close to describing the film. If you could watch the entire “Hostel” & “Saw” franchises all at once, you’d still only get about half this film’s effect, and I don’t think it’s overstating things at all to say that the other half is un-reviewable.
While it’s not nearly as “gory” as Hostel or Saw, the effect of the hyper real violence is heightened partially because there is absolutely no attempt to glamorize it in anyway. What’s more, as the film progresses, the editing, sound design, and cinematography start to program the audience in the same the characters are being programmed. If you hear this sound then you know that ____ is going to happen next. If you see that image then you know that something else is soon to follow. In fact I think the film has much more in common with Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” than anything else. But there in lies part of the problem in describing the film; It’s simply not like any film I’ve ever seen before.
The film has more than a few twists, and each one is more unexpected and frightening than the last. But each plot twist is also logical and intrinsic to the piece over all. The film never feels gimmicky. Each new horror has a meaning and possibly a very profound meaning, and the final images are almost beautiful in their complete and undiluted pure horror. Each terrible act of violence is personalized and presented in a way that forces the audience to identify with the perpetrator, the victim or both.
The film is shot beautifully, and the acting is top notch. The effects are also seamless.
Pascal Laugier directs with a stunning confidence and dedication to his vision. The first half of the film is as good as any revenge-suspense-character study out there, and the second half is… well the second half transcends any genre I can think of.
So far audiences have been divided. Some have claimed that his is a new masterpiece for the genre. Others have dismissed it as pretentious and over hyped. But it’s impossible to watch this film and leave unscathed in some way.
One of the definitions of “martyr” is witness, and by watching the film I think audiences become martyrs themselves. At least I think that’s part of the point of the film. I’m not sure I ever want to see this film again. Ever. But for fans of the genre – I think its one you absolutely must see at least once.