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John’s Horror Corner: Martyrs (2008), a transcendental journey of French extremism paved with suffering

September 2, 2013

FYI: This should be treated as NOT SAFE FOR WORK. So don’t come complaining to us when your boss peaks over your shoulder to your monitor and sees gore slathered, beaten or partially naked women, gushy exit wounds or generally disturbing imagery (see images below).  That’s on you!  This is a horror post.  I can’t (and won’t) make everything PG.  LOL

MY CALL:  Pain and transcendence paint the theme of this intense, cruel, relentlessly brutal film that will lead you to dark places free from the moral burdens of compassion.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  Though not quite as intense, Deadgirl (2008) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978, 2010) push moral boundaries far and hard.  LANGUAGE:  French; I bought the “unrated” DVD which offered it dubbed in English.  The dubbing is really poor–think Anime.

Amazon offers a friendly piece of advice: “Avoid, if you can, reading anything about Martyrs before viewing–this ultra-intense Canadian-French shocker benefits from discovering its horrors cold.”  I followed that advice.  I haven’t even seen a trailer.  What follows is my account of this film which was revered by some as being among the “10 most disturbing horror movies” and by Amazon as only advisable to “the most hardcore patrons of 21st-century torture cinema.”  I find over-hyping to be symptomatic of the breeding grounds of mediocrity.  Does this film follow suit?  No.  Does it break free from the over-played mold?  ABSOLUTELY!   So I suggest you STOP READING THIS REVIEW UNLESS YOU’VE ALREADY SEEN THE MOVIE.

We are introduced to an underage Lucie escaping an abandoned building where she was kept captive, beaten and malnourished under destitute conditions presumably as a sex slave.  Lucie ages through adolescence exhibiting damaged antisocial tendencies and self-destructive proclivities.  15 years later, Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï; Hereafter) pays a visit to her to childhood captors.  She finds revenge, but no true satisfaction; only utter mental breakdown exacerbated by her surrogate tormentor, her demon-like anthropomorphized self-loathing and guilt.

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Be prepared for a steady stream of disturbing imagery with mixed distortions between compassion and black-hearted evil.

Anna (Morjana Alaoui) has been watching out for Lucie since they met in an orphanage.  She arrives at the scene of Lucie’s revenge.  It’s bad.  Really bad.  And Anna tries to help clean up the mess and keep Lucie out of trouble.

Just when you thought you knew where the story was going, another weird story arc falls in your lap…over and over again.  This film is beyond bonkers, but executed intelligently.  You find yourself caught between wanting to laugh at how senseless it all is and wanting to scream because it’s frustratingly insane.  But, by the end, everything feels well-linked together in hindsight; in fact, brilliantly so.

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This woman came across some tough times.  Her every movement, twitch and mumble conveys a powerful pain.

This film is rich in gore, visceral brutality, intensity, violence (against women; not sexual in nature), torture and desperation.  There is also a fair bit of nudity.  But it is presented more to embrace humility and vulnerability than perversion.  Artfully handled, the nudity is an effective device that will elicit many feelings, none of which being arousal.

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Pascal Laugier, the man to blame for The Tall Man (2012), wrote and directed this film.  The Tall Man was an indecisively written film featuring an unreliable story, making for an unsatisfying waste of time drowning itself in too many loose plot elements.  Did that happen here?  Well…sort of.  Yes in the sense of the complete plot-based pandemonium which somehow neatly tied together in the end.  No in the sense that I actually loved this film–whereas I hated The Tall Man.

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Organized madness best describes Laughier’s storytelling style.  If you crave brutal intensity, let this film impress you.

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Trackbacks

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  3. John’s Horror Corner: I Spit on Your Grave 2 (2013), a revenge movie that is NOT for the feint | Movies, Films & Flix
  4. John’s Horror Corner [INDEX] | Movies, Films & Flix
  5. John’s Horror Corner: Dread (2009), beautifully made yet difficult to watch | Movies, Films & Flix
  6. John’s Horror Corner: Frontiers (2007), a fine installment to extreme French splatter cinema | Movies, Films & Flix
  7. John’s Horror Corner: Inside (2007), an extreme French film delivering an ultra-gory home birth. | Movies, Films & Flix
  8. Antichrist (2009), brutal sexuality meets visual splendor in this provocative, disturbing film | Movies, Films & Flix
  9. Horror Films For People Who Don’t Like Horror Films | Movies, Films & Flix
  10. 15 images for 15 years of horror: the greatest, goriest, most shocking and most memorably defining moments in horror in since 2000 | Movies, Films & Flix
  11. The MFF Podcast #6: The Best Moments in Horror since 2000 | Movies, Films & Flix
  12. A brief discussion of The Human Centipede franchise, with opinions on the trailer of The Human Centipede 3: The Final Sequence | Movies, Films & Flix
  13. Examining the State of Horror Cinema in 2015: A Look at the Current Trends, Auteurs and Squishy Noises | Movies, Films & Flix
  14. 8 Things from Movies that just “don’t make sense”…Southpaw, Human Centipede 3, The Martian, Annabelle, Poltergeist, A Most Violent Year, It Follows, Fifty shades of Grey | Movies, Films & Flix
  15. Martyrs – Movie Review | Last Turn
  16. MFF Reader Poll Results: The Top 21 Horror Films of the 21st Century! | Movies, Films & Flix
  17. John’s Horror Corner: Cannibal Holocaust (1980), appallingly brutal yet stylistic and controversial yet admonishing. | Movies, Films & Flix
  18. John’s Horror Corner: Don’t Breathe (2016), so much more than a home invasion movie with a dark secret. | Movies, Films & Flix
  19. John’s Horror Corner presents Strong Opinions: Critically analyzing 10 reasons I appreciated the Evil Dead (2013) remake. | Movies, Films & Flix
  20. John’s Horror Corner: Baskin (2015), a disturbed, disorienting and gory Turkish terror about cults and Hell. | Movies, Films & Flix
  21. John’s Horror Corner: Saw (2004), James Wan’s progenitor of modern torture porn is all about the characters! | Movies, Films & Flix
  22. John’s Horror Corner: Saw II (2005), more brutal, more death traps, more ominous tapes, more Jigsaw! | Movies, Films & Flix
  23. John’s Horror Corner: Saw III (2006), proving that torture porn sequels can have good writing AND loads of lingering, gross, chunky gore! | Movies, Films & Flix
  24. John’s Horror Corner: Saw IV (2007), very ambitious story with lackluster execution and so-so death traps—my least favorite of the franchise so far. | Movies, Films & Flix
  25. John’s Horror Corner: Saw V (2008), just okay—I miss Leigh Whannell and characters that matter. | Movies, Films & Flix
  26. John’s Horror Corner: Saw VI (2009), Jigsaw fights the insurance industry from the grave in this redeeming sequel! | Movies, Films & Flix
  27. John’s Horror Corner: Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010), bravo, Jigsaw! The game is won and your puzzle is complete! | Movies, Films & Flix

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