Sunday, June 20, 2010

Martyrs (2008)

For some reason I hesitate to watch movies described as dark, depraved and cruel. I guess I know subconsciously that depravity isn't my thing. It therefore took a few days after getting it to finally watch Martyrs - a movie either praised quite vaguely and held up for it's surprising ending, or reviled for being pointlessly sick and hard to watch. I'd like to forward another review, but first some plot.

A young girl, Lucie, is running away from something and obviously something unpleasant judging by the state of her - bruised, bloody and terrified. Lucie has been tortured and locked away for reasons unknown and this is shown through little flashbacks as the movie progresses. While in an orphanage she's befriended by Anna and this friendship continues when the movie flashes 15 years into the future. Lucie is now crazy as a loon and guns down a family as they sit eating breakfast, claiming these are the people who held and tortured her all those years ago. This is also the point where a decent movie could have become a great thriller and instead...well...goes in a different direction. In a nutshell, Anna turns up to help bury the bodies and Lucie is tormented by a demon who cuts and beats her - a demon Lucie had been tormented by since childhood and thought she would purge by killing her tormentors.

Not this phyla of demon, unfortunately
Not this phylum of demon, unfortunately

So that's a pretty good start. Lucie is obviously crazy, and not the disco crazy everyone loves, oh no, she's imaginary demon crazy. Homicide crazy. Cutting yourself crazy. It's pretty obvious the demon is in her head and the cutting/beating thing is self-inflicted. Although obvious, I thought that was a good idea and had to wait until later in the movie before I was 100% sure. Anna on the other hand isn't so sure that Lucie is right about these people being monsters, in fact she isn't sure Lucie was even tortured. As a viewer I was left pondering whether the whole thing was a construct in Lucie's mind - perhaps she was abused as a child and built a fantasy over the years then latched onto a couple who superficially resembled the people she remembered from childhood and used them for revenge to 'purge her demons'. Oh, if only the movie had gone that way this would have been something worth watching.

A note on the gore and torture. It's pretty mild. I expected everything laid bare, no punches pulled, right in your face gore and horror. Nope. A lot was done off camera or obscured by something else. Horrific stuff was glimpsed or filmed from an extreme angle to mask what was being shown. Only twice did I wince a little, and that was Lucie cutting herself. It wasn't extreme, I just don't like scenes of people openly cutting themselves. The torture at the end, though overly long and unpleasant, wasn't hardcore or graphic. Just pointless. Perhaps when the girl is skinned you could make a claim for extreme, if muscles and a little blood freaks you out. I've seen worse, a lot worse..and I don't even watch movies like Hostel or Saw.

Here's your torture porn, filthy monkeys
Here's your torture porn, filthy monkeys

So, what really happens in the second act is weird and disappointing. Lucie kills herself. Anna finds a torture chamber under the house. A bunch of people rock up and talk about martyrs and creating martyrs so they can gather information about the afterlife. Apparently extreme torture can make someone a martyr and push them into glimpsing the afterlife. Or something. Obviously this is bad news for Anna and her hope of a full and rich life. Which I'm sure she'd have lived after 15 years with crazy Lucie and witnessing a bunch of gruesome murders.

The future of virtual reality
The future of virtual reality isn't quite what they promised

The bad guys go on to torture the fuck out of her, which we get to watch for 20 minutes or more, then skin her. The skinning works a treat though and Anna apparently sees the afterlife. A gathering of people participating in the program (mostly rich older people, because rich old people have lots of time for crazy) is called at the house to have Anna's words related to them by the old woman who heard her testimony. The old woman kills herself instead so I guess Anna told her they don't have chocolate eclairs in the afterlife. The end.

But they do have trifle in the afterlife. Lots and lots of trifle.
But they do have trifle in the afterlife. Lots and lots of trifle.

Martyrs, therefore, was not a very good movie. The first half had potential but the rest was unpleasant claptrap. I can only assume that the people who describe it as extreme are more familiar with the works of Disney and those who praised the ending are under the age of 16. Or have received a large blow to the head recently.

'Now you're ready to watch Martyrs, here's your ticket'
Now you're ready to watch Martyrs, here's your ticket


Summary: Martyrs is shithouse, don't believe the hype.


  1. film trop compliqué pour vous les américains, contentez vous de vos films pop corn débile.

  2. 1. I'm not american

    2. This was about as complicated as a tub of unbuttered popcorn

    Thanks for commenting