Written by: deadhorse13
The French have firmly dug their nails into the horror genre in the last few years. Inside, High Tension, Frontier(s), Sheitan & Calvaire are just a few offering of disturbia from the Republic that raised an appreciative eyebrow on this jaded bloodhound. Martyrs is the newest powder keg in the so-called "New Wave Of French Horror Cinema" exploding with convincing violence and brutality. Director Pascal Laugier might have made the penultimate torture porn film here, but relegating Martyrs to strictly such would be serving it a grave injustice.
Martyrs opens with a bruised and battered girl named Lucie escaping from her captives after an undetermined amount of time. She is institutionalized and refuses to talk of her abusive experience. The only person the girl confides in is fellow resident Anna. Lucie vehemently wants revenge on her tormentors and is convinced she's found their location. In an amazing first act we witness Lucie go to the house and enact her revenge while being repeatedly assaulted by an animalistic naked woman. The struggle leads to Lucie's demise, leaving Anna to make sense of all the bloodshed. Did Lucie really find her captors, or were her suspicions and actions the result of desperate and paranoid delusions? Soon all the dark secrets will be revealed and they bring the young girl to the edge of human limitation.
From here Martyrs changes tone and becomes a real endurance test. For the young woman being terrorized, and for the audience brought along as witness. Laugier's candid treatment is emotionally devastating; its unflinching detail will leave you breathless and eager for reprieve. However, I found the end more than justified the means, saving the film from feeling gratuitous. The ending is the last sucker punch in this admirable battery of nihilism which will likely stir further reaction.
The film is expertly shot and directed. Its realistic portrayal is impressionable and makes for a harrowing experience. The few plot twists are hard to predict and reasonable in delivery. The violence is unfaltering and will shock those of a mild temperament, but those willing to brave the storm will find themselves admiring the director's unrelenting vision. Martyrs is another challenging, boundary expanding contribution from the French that will likely leave you both repulsed and impressed by its disturbing conclusion. Recommended.