“It’s so easy to create a victim, young lady, so easy. You lock someone in a dark room. They begin to suffer. You feed that suffering – Methodically, systematically and coldly. And make it last. Your subject goes through a number of states. After a while, their trauma; that small, easily opened crack, makes them see things that don’t exist.”
Every once in a while a film will appear that will truly grip you, excite and intrigue you, but most of all leave you with a feeling of “what the f*ck?!” that means you instantly go online after to see what other people are making of the ending, the subtext and the plot in general. Martyrs is one of those movies.
Directed by Pascal Laugier (Brotherhood of the Wolf) the plot focuses on Lucie played by Mylène Jampanoï who is on a quest to avenge the people who kidnapped and tortured her as a child. Lucie and her close childhood friend Anna (Morjana Alaoui) embark on bloody warpath and Lucie quickly begins to unravel, whilst Anna is forced to re-live her friend’s terrible past.
We are introduced to the film with a very mundane and ordinary scene, a regular family having breakfast together, that is until Lucie arrives and blows them up with a double barrel shotgun. Quite startling, particularly as we, the viewer, are not entirely sure that this perfectly normal looking family are actually the people who mistreated Lucie. This notion is backed up by the terrifying dead girl/demon that ‘haunts’ Lucie and cuts her with razor blades (girl, you crazy!). This opening, rife with violence, insanity and confusion, is just a taster of what is to follow. Forgive me, but I’m not going to say anymore on the actual plot of this film so not to ruin it for all of you that haven’t yet seen it.
If you are one of those people who haven’t yet seen the film, which is likely as it’s not a movie that has or probably ever will achieve mass popularity, you may well have heard about the notoriety of some of the scenes, such as the drawn out and extremely wince-worthy torture scene. It’s a difficult movie to watch, though whilst it’s not outright and shockingly ‘sick’ like A Serbian Film, it is something that goes beyond that, embedding itself in your mind. The ending in itself is a revelation.
I have watched this film with several different friends, all of whom started out with an opinion on where they thought the plot was heading, I myself also thought I’d ‘cracked it’ upon my first watching, but these little horror conventions are used solely to throw us off the scent, not that we would be likely to have figured it out anyway! It’s a clever little flick, and that’s why I like it.
It also stars the divine Catherine Bégin who you may recognise from 70s horror, The Uncanny. She plays the rather deranged, yet fabulously dressed Mademoiselle, who is responsible for revealing to us the whole ‘point’ to the plot, for want of a better term.
If you’re someone who cannot stand films that leave you wondering then do not watch Martyrs as there is no ‘answer’ or explanation – it is solely up to the viewer to come to their own conclusion. I have somewhat of a love affair with French cinema, horror or otherwise, and this is one French movie that certainly didn’t disappoint. It is not a film that is enjoyed the way that most are. It doesn’t have any of the ham and fun that we expect from the classic slashers such as Friday The 13th or Sleepaway Camp, or even the excessive gore of Saw or the cheap thrills of Paranormal Activity, in fact, I’m not even sure it is strictly a ‘horror’, but it is just horrific – in the best of ways.
As they say, “a mental mind f*ck can be nice.”