Friday, July 23, 2010


  • Martyrs
  • Martyrs
The Brotherhood of the Wolf director Pascal Lauguier follows his 2004 thriller House of Voices with this relentlessly brutal tale of a girl who suffered unimaginable abuse as a young child, and the unspeakable horrors that unfold when she arrives at an isolated cabin in the woods fifteen years later. The story begins as the young, badly battered Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) -- obviously the victim of inhuman abuse -- is hospitalized after somehow managing to escape her sadistic captors. Nearly catatonic after her life-altering ordeal, Lucie only manages to become functional again as a result of her friendship with Anna (Morjana Alaoui), a fellow abuse victim who selflessly reaches out to the badly damaged girl. Fifteen years later, Lucie guns down an entire family in cold blood. Is Lucie seeking belated vengeance against the people who tortured her as a young girl, or has her fragile psyche finally snapped, resulting in the bloody demise of an innocent family? Later, when Lucie calls on her old friend Anna, the truth about Lucie's traumatic early life experience slowly comes into focus. – All-Movie Guide
72% liked it

R, 1 hr. 37 min.

Director: Pascal Laugier

July 18, 2010: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Martyrs. “Yeah it’s a great film.” noted Let the Right One In author John Ajvide Lindqvist, “Don’t see it.”

As any horror fan who doesn’t mind reading subtitles knows, France is the go-to place right now for visceral, gory, and (sometimes) thought-provoking chillers. And as Mr. Lindqvist’s comment hints at, Martyrs stands near the top of the bloody heap. Personally, I think Alexandre Bustillo’s Inside is the better film, but that’s like picking which leg you’d rather have stuck in a trap and have to chew off while simultaneously discussing the meaning of life. There ain’t much difference. As far as mixing metaphysics with meat grinding goes, Martyrs gets the job done just fine.

The trick to making it through Martyrs (besides closing your eyes a lot if you tend to chunk noodles easily) is to hang in there until Act II. That’s when the film begins to head off into more philosophical (yet still repulsive) territory. And when mysticism enters the picture in Act III, you might just find that the director is intent on more than just making you ill. Not that he avoids doing that, mind you.

You see, the final third of the movie revolves around the original Greek meaning of the word martyr as one who bears witness to the truth. Death wasn’t really part of the equation. It was only around the time of the Maccabees that religious persecution began to be associated with the word, and only in the first few centuries of Christianity that martyrdom came to be seen, as the Catechism defines it, as “the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death.”

It’s important to grasp the distinction between the original meaning of the word and our current usage if you’re going to make sense of the ending of Martyrs. (This assumes, of course, that you’ve actually made it to end rather than fled the room to go vomit.) You see, in Christianity, the reason the martyr is willing to submit to pain and persecution, even death, is everything. It can even bring a certain internal happiness to the situation. That’s how St. Paul can exclaim in this week’s readings, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” But in the original secular sense of the word, the motivation of the martyrs is inconsequential. It is only that they provide answers which is of any importance. Understanding that the antagonists of Martyrs hold to the old meaning is necessary to put the brutality of the movie into some kind of meaningful context. There is no joy in the fate of some of the characters in Martyrs which, when you consider the secularist state of France right now, is just what you would expect.


Enbrethiliel said...


Horror is always best viewed through a Catholic lens. Perhaps the Eldest Daughter of the Church will do for "Torture Porn" what Italy has done for Zombie flicks.

(But really, Martyres got such terrible, indignant reviews across the Horror blogosphere that I doubt I will ever try it.)

Wildrow12 said...

You wouldn't believe some of the comments directed at people who didn't give this thing a positive review!

Personally, I just saw another 'torture porn' flick. I don't see what was so special about it.

Anonymous said...


Think I'll watch the "Sharktopus" trailer a few more times now, thank you.

Xena Catolica

EegahInc said...

Well, they can't all be good, I suppose. I rented Martyrs awhile back due to a lot of early buzz coming out of festivals about all of this new French stuff. I'd have to say that country's general lack of religion is really showing through in their horror movies. Bleak, bleak stuff.

MissJean said...

I think some films are the adult equivalent of boys torturing bugs. I wouldn't pay to see it.

Wildrow12 said...

"I'd have to say that country's general lack of religion is really showing through in their horror movies. Bleak, bleak stuff."

The Reign of Terror will do that to ya.

....which is why the fact that the French government are flirting with the far-far right (again) makes anyone with a sense of history become a bit uneasy.

That sort of Nihilistic-Nationalism (a strange union to be sure), is a dangerous thing. It tends to make heads roll (literally).

Enbrethiliel said...


Martyrs was hyped to the heavens, then panned down to hell. And even its own director admits he hates it sometimes.

EegahInc said...

Out of the batch of French new wave horror films from the last decade that I've sat through, I at least give Martyrs and Inside points for trying to be more than just shockingly gory. They just fall short.

If you want foreign horror with some soul to it, I'd stick to Spain. The Devil's backbone & The Orphanage, now those are good movies.

MissJean said...

I haven't see The Devil's Backbone, but the Orphanage is good. The only drawback is the ending.

EegahInc said...

Indeed, The Orphanage is heartbreaking. I went ahead and warned my wife ahead of time and she decided to skip it.