France (dir. Pascal Laugier)
Cast: Catherine Bégin, Emilie Miskdjian, Isabelle Chasse, Juliette Gosselin, Mike Chute, Morjana Alaoui, Mylène Jampanoï, Patricia Tulasne, Robert Toupin, Xavier Dolan
Synopsis: Fifteen years after a horrifying experience of abduction and prolonged torture, Lucie embarks on a bloody quest for revenge against her oppressors. Along with her childhood friend, Anna, who also suffered abuse, she quickly descends, without hope, into madness and her own delusions. Anna, left on her own begins to re-experience what Lucie did when she was only twelve years old.
Review: “Martyrs” is a sick, twisted, depraved, fucked up and absolutely terrifying movie… and boy, did I ever get messed up by this one. This is a thousand times more anguishing than any American torture porn film released in the past decade. It is so ugly and brutal, so disturbing and upsetting, I guarantee that you will be rocked to your core. The French seem to have a penchant for horror movies involving the sadistic, merciless torture of women, and “Martyrs” is no exception.
The movie begins with a child, an extremely tortured one, running away from her captors. The marks of her torture are so clearly apparent, so brutal, and so upsetting that you may have to look away if this sort of thing upsets you. Child torture is an ugly thing, and Laugier films it just like it is. Dirty, disgusting, depraved. The child ends up in what would appear to be foster care for abused and disturbed youths. She befriends a fellow abused child, and we get a glimpse of this girl’s dark past and the terrifying, surrealistic visions that haunt her (visions of a chained girl whom she “met” while she was held captive. Flash forward to many years later, and the girl is now a deeply disturbed woman set on revenge. By some chance, she tracks down her tormentors (a wealthy suburban couple living in a country home with their two bratty teenaged children). Alongside her best friend from foster care, she executes a brutal massacre of this family in the hopes that her visions will cease. The massacre is brutal, and at times you wonder to yourself if she is killing the right people and why is this seemingly pivotal plot element taking place in the first 20 minutes of the film. All is revealed later on when it is discovered that the girl was correct about the identity of her torturers, however this is by no means the end of her ordeal.
The girl’s best friend (Anna) attempts to save a family member, however ends up in a bit of a mess when she discovers that the family was responsible for her best friend’s torture. In a cruel twist, Anna is forced to re-experience her best friend’s childhood – and my god, is it ever fucked up. Beyond this point, I began feeling a combination of depression, revulsion, pain, while all the while being transfixed. To see a woman go through the abuse depicted in this movie (I cannot even begin to list these horrors, but they include flaying) is disgusting to say the least, however the director does a decent job with this material and makes into a pretty spectacular horror film. During some torture scenes I was forced to look away, during the last 45 minutes I couldn’t stand to watch the movie anymore and felt like turning off, and some points m eyes were so glued to the screen I could barely look away. I was terrified and transfixed at the same time, a rare experience in my mind.
There is a bit of a shaky/stupid explanation for the tortures and the motives of the torturers, but other than that the film is rock solid. It has a great cast, some incredible cinematography, and it is well done as a whole. What makes the film so disturbing is a combination of the sadistic torture and the repetitive nature of certain things. For example, for about 15 minutes during one part of the movie we see a woman severely beaten and screaming continually. It is this repetitive act that is successful in almost completely desensitizing you. Is this going too far, you might think? Yeah, I think so too, but at the same time we live in a world where young girls and women are kept as sex slaves in people’s basements, where children are born into captivity and treated like animals, where women are still beaten by their husbands. Cruel and disturbing content for a movie? Yes. Unnecessary and over the top? I’d say no, because this sort of thing seems to happen a lot in our world. Does it deserve to be artistically portrayed on-screen? Why not? A horror movie can still function as social commentary.