Martyrs (18)

Film

Horror films

martyrs_3.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>2</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Tue Mar 24 2009

If the idea of seeing a young woman having metal rivets removed from her cranium makes your heart skip a beat, you won’t want to miss this baroque ‘torture porn’ hope-sapper from French director Pascal Laugier which is cut from a similar, po-faced and unrelentingly nauseating cloth as the ‘Hostel’ films and last year’s ‘Frontière(s)’.

It opens on a young girl fleeing mysterious captors who have been using her as a human pin-cushion in their dank basement. Flash forward to the present day, and she’s as mad as hell, carrying a shotgun and out for bloody retribution. The stylishly mounted first half zips along at a rate of knots while the gruesome make-up work will keep your gag reflex in violent spasm. However, it turns out that Laugier’s skills as a director fall squarely in the action department, as an ill-advised mid-point U-turn delivers a talky, depressing and insanely pretentious take on mortality and human experimentation.

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Release details

Rated:

18

UK release:

Fri Mar 27, 2009

Duration:

95 mins

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3 / 5

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LiveReviews|8
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godfrey hamilton

Prurience rationalizing itself as Art. Theologically vapid, metaphorically callow, revelling and wallowing in the opportunity it slyly gives itself to depict men beating and torturing women. Mademoiselle would have been better advised to sit Vipassana meditation, but that would have made for a thought-provoking narrative, which this farrago - reeking of French Catholicism (and never forget Christianity is simply a primitive blood cult) - certainly isn't. And it illuminates nothing except its own - that word again - prurience.

Roland

The film starts out in a vaguely similar vein to ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ (wronged woman out for vengeance), before segueing into psychological horror, then chamber piece, then torture porn and finally philosophical, messianic nightmare. It’s very ambitious, well crafted and very claustrophobic. The two lead girls give their all to some very arduous, difficult roles, the violence (sometimes very abrupt) is quite shocking and the film does manage to be truly quite unnerving: there are moments of horror here that are not enjoyable and hard to watch, rather like Takeshi Miike’s entry in the Masters of Horror serie, ‘Imprint’. However, the film – for all it’s high lofty ambitions and high ideals – is something of a mess, and never really functions as a cohesive drama. Director Pascal Laugier is obviously trying to make a profound statement on why people what horror movies and why some people hurt others, and wants to take his audience to (and beyond) the limit of their endurance, but Martyr’s basic horror framework can’t support such ambitions. For all its technical acumen (great super 16mm cinematography) it remains nothing more than a above-average interest horror film. It’s all well and good to try and show us the deepest pit of human despair, but since so much of the film borrows from other horror movies (Hostel, especially) it’s never very convincing. The film works best in parts, in ten minute segments, but to watch it in bits would reduce it’s impact. It’s very similar to Calvaire and Frontiers, which were both afflicted by the same problem, that they were trying to be rollicking horror thrillers while also trying to produce a truly unnerving comment on modern times. Film-makers CAN have it both ways (The Todd Killings, Targets, Memories of Murder, Seven etc.) but Martyrs doesn’t get it quite right. Despite the horrific finale, I couldn’t get past the film un-even nature, and it just seemed a bit pretentious. Despite that, though, it’s indisputably an important entry in the horror canon for its sheer ferocity, but only horror fans will watch and comment on it with very qualified praise.

Bunny

I watched this film last night and have just been trawling the net for reviews. To me, the review here is fair. The first half of the film is fantastic – really smart, clever, exciting, scary. The last half is terrible – pretentious, boring, ridiculous. It really annoys me that people here say that critics don't 'get it' and this film is much better than Hostel etc. I'd say that the critics well enough and it's the reviewers here who don't 'get' Hostel. Hostel basically takes the opposite viewpoint from Martyrs in that we look at why one person might exploit another in the worst possible way – we see at the beginning that the central protagonist thinks it is acceptable to pay for sex, possibly even S&M sex. This is not unusual in his, or our world, and the film explores the idea that paying to torture someone might be the next step for a jaded individual who has 'seen it all' (and this is uncomfortable, since we are 'seeing it all' in the film). I think it's amazing, and really clever, that we end up rooting for this unpleasant and initially amoral protagonist – we really go on a journey. The problem with Martyrs is that is that we see the effects of the torture on the victims but the reason given for its doling out is utterly spurious. We know what the "mademoiselle" is up to (far-fetched as it seems, as hopelessly 'one the nose' as it is explained to us and as utterly pointless as it turns out to be) but who are all the people who she employs to do all the torturing? What on Earth is their motivation? Who knows. Hostel is by far the more sophisticated film in that it explores the masochist's motivation and explains it through action and not through a long speech to a protagonist who has no need to hear it, like a James Bond baddy explaining him how he is about to be killed. Except, instead of getting away, we see the torture – even though we know, from what we've seen already, what's going to happen. I think the film maker has had a brilliant idea in looking at iconic images of martyrs – such as Joan of Arc and Saint Sebastian – whose gruesome deaths we take in our stride, and thinking, "How can I make those images resonate with fresh meaning?" But, unfortunately, he made two halves of two different films and came up with a big, noisy, empty mess.

boaz parker

What can we learn from the movie ,beside the fact that evil to its extent ,can exist in our modern time and the law men do not always appear to fight "organised evil" . THE GIRL SHOULD HAVE CALLED THE POLICE OR ANYONE ELSE TO THAT ADRESS ,INSTEAD OF CRYING AND FALLING ASLEEP BY HER DEAD GIRLFRIEND. SHE HAD PLENTY OF TIME AFTER SHE FOUND THE EVIL EVIDENCE , TO TRY ESCAPE AND MABY GIVE A CHANCE TO THE WORLD ,TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE EVIL PEOPLE THAT TOOK PLACE IN PARTICIPATING THE CRIME. wE CANT DO ALL BY OURSELVES ,WE NEED PRO FESSINAL AND STRONG HELP , WHEN THINGS ARE UNCLEAR AND TOO WEIRD . I WISH THE GIRL COULD ESCAPE . BU SHE TOOK TOO MANY DUTIES ON HERSELF.

MarkE

Certainly one of the smarter horror films to come along in awhile (and leagues above that Saw and Hostel trash). Im not a fan of torture porn but Martyrs isnt really a part of that genre. It has an agenda far more significant than simply freaking its viewer out via the graphic violence. It does come across a tad pretentious though in the end. I dont enjoy leaving a film feeling more a test subject than a viewer.

Matt Hardwick

I would beg to differ with the review of this film - it seems that most of the UK press have missed the point of this film. It's deeply complex and amazing to watch. Everyone I know that has seen it and understood it (most people - but clearly not the press) has been deeply moved and amazed.

Matt Hardwick

I would beg to differ with the review of this film - it seems that most of the UK press have missed the point of this film. It's deeply complex and amazing to watch. Everyone I know that has seen it and understood it (most people - but clearly not the press) has been deeply moved and amazed.