on 24 January 2010
I thought that I was a fairly seasoned gore hound, I was under the impression that I couldn't be shocked, I was wrong!
From the opening sequence of a bloody and battered young girl squealing and screaming, limping as fast as her brutalised body could manage, to get away from as yet undisclosed terrors, to the closing sequence which I had to have explained for me by my sister's fiance, as my hand was firmly up in front of my face, because frankly I couldn't watch any more, Martyrs is a thoroughly engaging and compelling examination of human suffering.
What it isn't however is enjoyable. This film was far too brutal, gritty and nasty for me. A Saturday night ought never to involve watching a young girl tied to a chair in a dirty warehouse being slapped around her already bloody and bruised face.
By an hour or so in, though I felt violated by this film, I still felt that I could deal with it, then the movie shifts gears and from the last half hour goes down a hithero (to me anyway) unexpected path and that was when I started to really struggle. The last third of Martyrs is one of the most terrible, horrible, awful, vile things that I've ever put myself through, yet it is substantially less gory than the hour which preceeds it, there is no way of me explaining how this is possible with spoiling things for you, so you shall have to take my word for it.
Though this wasn't for me I have given it four stars because in many ways it is a brilliant film. It is incredibly original and sumptuously filmed and edited with a rawness that lends an extra veneer of grit to a movie which is already rotten with cutting edge ideas and envelope pushing concepts.
I would thoroughly recommend this to people who enjoy utter darkness, rawness and brutality in their movies. I shall return to collecting Troma films, safe on the knowledge that there are limits to what I consider to be entertainment
on 15 May 2014
First of all, Martyrs is the type of film that's guaranteed to shock it's viewer so it's not really recommended for those who have a weak stomach or is faint of heart. Pascal Laugier has created a deeply disturbing and powerful assault on the senses, his direction was quite good with some beautiful cinematography and lighting, and the performances from both Morjana Alaoui and Mylène Jampanoï were both outstanding. The film begins by showing a young girl, bloodied and gaunt, running from some unspecified evil she's just escaped from. Shortly afterward, we flash forward to the girl as a young lady--Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï, in an astonishing, heartbreaking performance), still too traumatized fifteen years later to sleep alone.
So she sleeps in the same room with her lifelong friend Anna (Morjana Alaoui, also delivered a terrific, haunting performance), who loves Lucie and is doing her best to empathize with her. But Lucie has a demon. A real one. One that chases her around and cuts her with knives and is generally evil and mean to her. Anna never sees the demon, but she goes along with Lucie when Lucie devises a plan to do what it takes to put it to rest. She must return to the heart of darkness and kill her childhood tormentors.
Lucie then goes out and massacres an entire family with a shot gun. At first, you believe she's bonkers, but we soon realize that the parents killed weren't whom they appear..far, far worse. But, Lucie hallucinates, believing that a mistreated victim she didn't rescue as a child after escaping from the place where she was tortured is always coming for her. Anna who witnesses the aftermath of the slaughter, attempts to clean up the mess, while mortified at such a grisly crime scene.. It's here that the movie gets really interesting due to the way it begins to defy expectations. Martyrs is yet another vicious, dementedly violent masterpiece that the French can call their own, and possibly the most brutal one yet!
The highly original premise cannot be compared with any other modern horror flick, even though some scenes were reminiscent of Hostel, both films were entirely different. It's not your typical torture porn as it is much more than that. Martyrs is truly a brilliant film, with good actors and a good story. The thesis is that if a person can survive extremes of pain and deprivation, new vistas may be opened to them.
It's been long-held that the right side of the brain, the imaginative, creative side receives its flashes of insight or inspiration under extremes of stress a different kind of martyrdom. It may be that there's some truth in the theory. Whatever the case, it's a topic worth exploring, and "Martyrs" does a pretty good job of it. While the brutality was sometimes hard to watch, the underlying theme rendered it all fascinating, unlike so many pointless torture pics it actually makes you think. Martyrs was truly a fantastic film that's guaranteed to shock and disturb horror fans out there as it will make you think about it for days later, it's definitely one of my favorite French horror film.
on 5 April 2016
I'm not really a horror fan, mainly because there is so many poor mainstream offerings about that it's a struggle to find something that makes you think. This made me think. And it's an uncomfortable train of thought to be on. There's so many levels in this film that it is genuinely hard not to think about it, both during and after seeing it. And that really draws you into what's happening. In my opinion, this films is so complex and well crafted that it did for me what Ex-Machina should have done; it made me uncomfortable. I kept making comparisons to that film because of the look, feel, tone, pacing...but Garland's film can't hold a torch to this on any level.
This is one of the finest crafted films I've seen in a very long time. There was a point in Anna's 'training' that I couldn't help but question what the hell the point to showing such gratuitous and prolonged treatment was...but this film unfolds at the right pace, you just don't realise it at certain points that patience is the key. You begin to question what you're watching; to the point of asking how they could possibly end this in a meaningful way. Yet the answer to that question is so satisfying, so justified that you leave with a sense of disgust, and some twisted admiration equally for Mademoiselle, the 'feeder', the 'beater', and the 'subjects'.
on 29 May 2009
I watched this film last night around a friend's house. I knew nothing about it and was really not that interested in watching a film, however, by the end I was glad that I had not protested.
This film is a rollercoaster of emotions and revelations. Beginning with a young girl who has been abused running out of a industrial building screaming is some opening. Move on 15 years later and she and her friend who you meet in the opening credits begin their journey creating a magnificent piece of French cinema.
I will not give any spoilers away but this film puts films like Hostel and Saw to shame. The problem is that this film is not for everyone, it does take some thought to figure out what is going on and believe me your feelings for characters will change throughout.
By the end you feel like you have been Martyred as it is tough to endure if you let yourself slip into the story, which I might add is very believeable. Watch out for the photographs in the film, they are real and what is described are true events.
All in all 5/5, I've just purchased it myself for my collection, and it is a worthy addition.
on 3 July 2009
Once again, I am compelled to write a review of a horror film. Until recently I thought the horror genre was dying, if not dead, despite clutching at occasional offerings such as `Mum and Dad' and `Eden Lake' both of which offered hope and a possible new direction in the horror genre. Whilst not necessarily a fan of torture porn, I think it is here to stay and at first, I thought `Martyrs' promised little more than misogynistic uberviolence.
But it's not. The plot leads you by a clammy hand through twists and turns, and whereas the mental illness angle was relatively easy to second guess, the second half of this genre jumping film was completely unpredictable. This is vicious, viscous, cerebral horror, horror to make you think, horror which really does leave mental scars. You might not want to, but you must make yourself watch this film to the end. Even now, I'm still struggling to come to terms with the basic philosophical thoughts which underpin this work and the absolute realism and attention to detail which informs the viewer throughout. Sitting through the second half, I wondered if this film was a step too far, considered that there ought to be tighter censorship laws governing these violent and sickening representations: the fact that the denouement made me, transiently, consider that the process I had witnessed justified the end result, worries me. This is a film about the unspeakable and the ultimate justification of the unspeakable and your own, eventual, compliance with the unspeakable.
I have deliberately not given any of the plot away, because on one level a good plot serves primarily to communicate ideas and move us towards them, and this film is a film of ideas, ideas so old they could be said to underpin the fabric of our society. If you are a horror aficionado, if you want to have your boundaries stretched, if you feel you have become complacent in your attitude towards a genre you thought was failing, then this is the film for you. This is a film that returns horror to its rightful place, on the top shelf, restricted. This is no fifteen certificate, this is horror grown up. Horror was never meant for social gatherings, shared bon hommie, popcorn in packed cinemas. DVD is the perfect format: we shouldn't want to share the darker sides of ourselves in public, lest we reveal ourselves to be actually enjoying something forbidden. This is certainly not a film for everyone, and I praise Pascal Laugier for that: uncompromisingly adults only - and so much the better for it, this isn't a film where any concessions have been made to taste or decency. This is European horror, deeper than society or sorority. This is streets ahead of the commercialised big budget American market where profit margins dilute content and result in `MTV Horror'. Horror isn't werewolves or vampires; horror is humanity, it's history, it's us. This is New Horror which takes us to the places we recognise in our neighbour, Josef Fritzl. An outstanding, marvellously sickening and deep contribution to my collection which leaves recent cause célèbres floundering in the shallows.
on 6 June 2009
To start off with, this is not a movie like Hostel or Saw. If you are looking for something like either of these movies, turn back now.
I may aswell get this out of the way first. Martyrs is not the goriest movie ever made, not even close. However, it may be one of the most brutal movies ever made. You will not see excessive blood splats, or heads being lopped off. You will, however, see some extreme brutality.
There is, thankfully, no awful depravity. No graphic rape, or sexual assualts or anything you may see in some god awful Rob Zombie film. There is some to an extent, but nothing off putting.
People have gone into detail about the plot on other reviews, so for this one, I shall stick to the actual movie.
This is not torture porn. This is true, powerful movie making. Unfortunatly because it happens to be French, and a violent horror movie, this is what this movie is being lumped into. This is terribly unfair, in fact for many horror films being released recently, but especcialy this one. It is perhaps one of the most thought provoking films I have seen in a VERY long time.
This is a very nihilistic, dark movie. For those rooting for a quick escape for either heriones will be sorely dissapointed. Martyrs pulls the rug out from under your feet every time you start to feel comfortable. You will be sitting and think 'Ah this is pegged for me now' and woosh, the film spirals and twists into something completely different.
The film has been critized for it's midway point twist. I found this to be very effective. It is a clear example of just how much the movie switches around on the viewer. Also, the point of the twist is not to carry on the story in a pitch perfect manner, but to further director Pascal Laugers message.
Ah yes, the message. Many seem to be missing it. But there is a message inside this movie. I will not spoil anything, but it all hinders on the final scene and line of the movie. The message is very powerful, and made all the stronger but the sheer, constant brutality the second half of the film delivers.
Overall, this is a very powerful and very dark piece of French cinema. I hope this will be the final note on which the French horror genre goes out on, as this is the best of them. Darker than Frontiers, more thought provoking than Inside, and more enthralling than Switchblade Romance. An excellent movie.
on 8 March 2016
I've seen my fair share of torture sequences from horror flicks and action movies alike, but I can't remember ever seeing anything quite as extreme as this. I kept it running to the end only because I felt compelled to see out the conclusion. However if anything this was a bit too extreme for me. And thats coming from a big fan of the horror genere you enjoys a good old fashioned slasher flick or a psycological thriller. But this takes it to a whole new level...
on 7 December 2010
This is an uncompromising film that, at times, is very uncomfortable to watch. The typical horror splatter gore of the main bulk of the film contrasts sharply with the brutal (but gore restrained) violence of the final act.
Am I glad I watched this film? Yes.
Will I be watching it again? No, not for a very long time anyway.
on 10 April 2016
Martyrs makes for some extremely uncomfortable viewing, just like the very disturbing A Serbian Film. It's a film that details just how evil a human-being can be towards another. Humanity at it's lowest point. In a way, Martyrs felt like a continuation of sorts, to the notorious cult film Salo.
on 17 September 2016
What to say about this film? More importantly perhaps, what to say about this film that hasn’t already been said by a plethora of other reviewers?
Well, firstly and perhaps most significantly, unlike other reviewers I intend to make no attempt whatsoever to tell you anything about the film itself. For some on here it seems that they feel a review basically means you need to tell the reader EVERYTHING that happens in said film, ruining the entire experience for them. My review will promise not to do this, so you may read on with that knowledge safely in your pocket.
And why is this so important you may well ask? Well, simply because for some films, this very much being one of them, they really should be experienced ‘cold’, with as little pre-knowledge as possible. The best way to watch Martyrs is knowing nothing from the off, so that every scene and every aspect of it enters your brain without any preconceptions, and you’re not sat waiting for certain things to happen.
A LOT has been said about this film, some of it true, but much of it unjustified in my view.
For starters maybe I am more hardened to such things than an average viewer (I’ve seen a lot of films in my years), but I didn't actually find this film particularly disturbing, yes I felt sad and sorry for the victims in this film (I'm not completely dead inside!) but I wasn't uncomfortable and I didn't struggle to watch it. That being said I do understand why others may find it disturbing, it certainly won't be for everyone. But I think it was cleverly filmed to give the viewer enough to get inside their heads but not so much to ruin the experience like so many films do by simply trying to shock you.
It’s certainly nowhere near as gory as some will have you believe (though most sensible reviewers have also alluded to its sensible use of and indeed lack of gore), you can trust me here people – there are many, many gorier films available if that’s what you want (or want to avoid of course). It’s also not as ‘brutal’ and ‘violent’ as some would suggest, certainly not needlessly or uncomfortably so, again if it’s pointless over-the-top violence and brutality you are looking for – then look elsewhere.
Yes at its core it has a story line that relies on some violence, but in comparison to other films, and certainly in comparison to what the director ‘could have done’ with this, it’s actually not hard to watch provided you are used to a little violence in your movies, and I do not believe that any seasoned or even average horror film fan would see anything in this that would remotely shock or make them uncomfortable. I have read reviews of people being sick?? These people don’t belong watching films in this genre, this is not a nauseating film. There are some unpleasant scenes but no worse than you will see in many other films.
In fact, all the over-the-top reviews of this film actually put me off watching it for some time, was I going to be mentally unstable after watching this? Is it going to haunt my mind for weeks or months to come? Will it make me nauseous or disturbed? The reviews seem to suggest so, so I avoided it for a bit, until I could no longer fight the curiosity, and then after 99 minutes of viewing, in which I was very much glued to the screen, I was finally able to formulate my own opinion, my own perception of something so many have had so much to say about.
What do I have to say about it then? Well, firstly you should know that I watched this expecting it to be cold, brutal, unforgiving, a little unnecessarily violent and ultimately ‘disturbing’ (there’s that word again, this after all is a film that regularly appears at or near the top of all ‘most disturbing film’ lists on the internet).
The verdict however is something I hadn’t expected, at all.
Rather than telling you, as I had expected to, to avoid this grotesque and pointless movie, I instead find myself hugely recommending it to everyone I speak to. This is a brilliantly executed, beautifully crafted and clever piece of cinema, which rightfully deserves the stars so many have given it. Though the story is ultimately rather thin and weak, it is told well enough to offer more to the viewer than simple bloodshed and violence, any real discomfort or ‘disturbing’ elements come more from its central theme and concept, rather than it’s physical scenes, it emits more haunting, depressive and saddened feelings, than repulsive and sickening ones, and it is this array of emotive feelings that make it last in your memory.
Although I won’t ruin a single scene for anyone, you should know that despite the reviews, despite the fear mongering, there wasn’t a single scene I found hard to watch, there wasn’t excessive gore, violence or anything I would declare as unnecessary or vulgar. Perhaps, as I’ve alluded to previously, I am just used to such things so I don’t easily shock or scare anymore, perhaps this maybe the case, and it would seem it must be given some of the other reviewers that have been seemingly tormented by this film. But I genuinely found myself intrigued by this rather than appalled by it, engrossed in it rather than grossed out by it.
I don’t particularly think the story ‘leaves you thinking about life for weeks to come’ like some have alluded to, for I believe the story though good, to be a basic one, though an original one with a clever concept. But the heart of this movie’s real impact on its viewer is in the way it’s portrayed, the way it’s acted, and the way it is filmed - as many have said before me; it’s raw, it’s powerful and it’s thought-provoking. This isn’t a ‘happy film’, it’s not for the faint-hearted (but as I’ve said, not as bad as some would have you believe), it’s unrelenting, direct and simply gritty, and that is the closest, most accurate group of words I can find to describe it.
So I’ve done a lot of writing here without saying very much haven’t I? Well that’s for your own benefit, trust me I’ve done you a favour, and if you’ve taken the time to read to the end of my review, then I would appreciate your comments after you now go watch this yourself, which you should, without question, just to see how ‘disturbing’ films can be made with class and thought.
And because I’m such a good guy, here’s another favour for you – avoid the 2016 remake, just give it the widest of wide births, and stick with this 2008 original. I’m asking you to trust me on that too.
Martyrs was not at all what I had expected. It was not what I had been informed by so many it would be. But ultimately it proved to be something so much more. In the end I wasn’t left reliving any violence or gore in my mind like I have with other films, I was instead left remembering just how well this film was put together, how brilliantly acted it was, and how well paced it was. A masterclass in my eyes, and in the eyes of so many others.
Enjoy may be a stretch too far some, but certainly absorb, respect and remember.