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Martyrs (2008)

A young woman’s quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child leads her and a friend, who is also a victim of child abuse, on a terrifying journey into a living hell of depravity.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I pressed play and Martyrs began. I had seen a review score on another horror website and without reading any of the details for fear of spoiling it, the film got a perfect rating and they said it wasn’t for the light-hearted. I didn’t want to read any more and off I went to buy the film. All I knew was that it was a tale of revenge and was part of the new-wave of european horror which was going down a storm on the festival circuits. France went through a period of releasing some great extreme films over the space of a few years, such as High Tension, Ils, Frontier(s), Inside and obviously Martyrs.

As Martyrs begins, we see a young girl named Lucie running towards camera, as she has just escaped from a disused abattoir where she has been imprisoned and physically abused. Lucie is placed in an orphanage, where she is befriended by a young girl named Anna. We then watch as over time Lucie gradually starts to get back to being normal, around Anna at least, and the pair strike up a friendship and can’t be separated. We then cut to 15 years later as Lucie storms into a house shotgun in hand as she thinks she has found the people responsible for her torment all those years ago. I don’t want to give much away as I truly feel this is a film which should be experienced knowing as little as possible about it to appreciate the full effect and intensity of it.

Director Pascal Laugier really has made a remarkable film. I was so confused watching it in regards to trying to nail down a genre to classify this film in. It starts as a rehabilitation movie, evolves into a tale of revenge, throws in a grudge-style ghost who terrorizes one of the lead girls and then pulls the rug out from under the viewer and becomes a captive and torture movie with a hint of spirituality mixed in. We see murders, twists, turns and scenes of visceral brutal torture, the likes of which only a handful of films over time can compare to. That probably doesn’t cover everything either. Just so much goes on in Martyrs, and it never lets the viewer rest at all. I was exhausted from watching it, and whenever I thought I knew where it was going the story just changed direction and threw in a curveball. An experience not many films have matched up to in a long time in my opinion, especially in this kind of genre.

This will likely be one of my shortest reviews, as I really just wanted to give a brief summary and hopefully it will tempt a few people to try check this film out if they haven’t already. I can’t wait to see other peoples thoughts and opinions on it, at the very least I hope and expect viewers will appreciate what a remarkable pice of cinema Martyrs is.

It is an assault to the senses, extreme in the blood and torture stakes and some scenes including violence to children and women as well as the inevitable end-game torture method are hard to watch. It is a sad, depressing tale with a bleak outlook and there is nothing redeeming on show here. I can only recommended for people who have a high threshold for this kind of film. If you struggle to watch films such as ‘Saw’ & ‘Hostel’ then steer well clear of Martyrs. It is very much a niche film, but for those of you that like to be challenged and want to see one of the more extreme movies in the history of film then Martyrs is for you. Beyond all the horror and torture, the story is brilliant and at the very least different. There are many interpretations on the ending, and I really like it when you watch something and then go on forums and other sites to try and see if your opinion is the same as other people’s and how they differ. All in all, I have always liked films that push the boundaries, and Martyrs truly does that. I can’t wait to see how the director follows this up.

As a side note I’m very worried about the American remake of Martyrs, it is currently owned by the Weinstein company and in the hands of the ‘Twilight’ producers, but if anything I hope that if it ever comes to fruition it makes more people seek out the original. This film deserves and demands to be seen. You won’t forget about it in a hurry that’s for sure.

8 stars

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54 Comments

  1. theipc

     /  July 5, 2012

    This thing was a tough watch, that’s for sure….

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    • Oh definitely, but I found it very rewarding ultimately. In no rush to see it again though!

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      • theipc

         /  July 5, 2012

        you know, I really thought this was going pretty good until a certain point towards the third / third that I won’t spoil for your readers – but I am sure you know what I mean (shudder)…

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        • Did it lower your opinion on the film or would you still rate it highly? Not exactly sure which bit your referring too without directly asking and maybe spoiling, I can hazard a guess though but then again there are a few scenes that really pushed the limits of extreme viewing! Or was it a plot turn that you didn’t enjoy? The ghost-like figure made me jump, wasn’t expecting that in this story 🙂

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        • theipc

           /  July 5, 2012

          To be as vague as possible, I would say that I didn’t care for any of the visuals that we got “in the facility” during the last part of the movie. Maybe I’ll come back in a month and we can revisit the topic after your readers have had a chance to give this a shot. : )

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        • Haha yeah I assumed you were eluding to that part. Frighteningly realistic to look at I thought. I always wonder how writers come up with that sort of stuff 🙂

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  2. A good film, but honestly, the ending was somewhat disappointing. Nice write-up! And oh, remaking this for an American audience is a slap in the face. I’m sure a PG-13 rating will be given to it thus ruining the vision of the original film.

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    • I think the ending (or the way I interpreted the ending and what was said) worked and went along with the whole theme of the film, but if the remake happens I can see that being the one thing they change. Although the religious undertones grated on me slightly but that’s just me being picky. Thanks for your comments though Mike, always appreciated.

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      • Films that leave endings to interpretation rub me the wrong way. I feel the filmmakers who use this device are simply lazy. But that’s just me 🙂

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        • You like a clear cut ending then?! 🙂 I don’t mind ones that leave it open, but films that have no ending (devil inside) or ridiculous endings make me mad.

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        • For the most part yes. And the Devil Inside can take its creators and Paramount and burn in hell for stealing my hard earned cash.

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        • That’s why I was glad I borrowed the film, glad I gave them nothing and will try telling everyone I meet how bad it is!

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        • Saw it with my daughter. After two tickets, drinks and popcorn I was at $50. It’s the first film I ever said “fuck this movie” out loud in a somewhat crowded theater. Many others said the exact same thing. We were pissed.

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        • That’s brilliant! Should of done a mass walkout and demanded your money back! Thats also the reason I only go to the cinema if it’s a) half price day b) something I know I’ll love c) a de niro movie. Frustrating when films that bad get huge releases and then even bigger box office as that inevitably means sequel.

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        • I rarely go any more. Just wait for the rental or blu-ray nowadays. I did see The Avengers just today and loved every minute of it 🙂

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        • Never been into superhero stuff personally but not heard a bad word anywhere about The Avengers. Will have to give it a watch one day

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  3. This has been in my queue for awhile with me having had no idea what it was about really. I’m moving it up the list definitely after your review though.

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  4. Holy god, this movie. I was riveted. I’m glad more and more people are beginning to watch it because I really do think that it’s more than just a typical horror movie with blood and guts blown flown across the room. It had ideas and most of them were executed well. I thought the ending was fab.

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    • Agree with you fully, definitely more to it than your average horror movie. It’s nice to see other people who liked it as well. The ending was strange, I liked it but the slight undertones to it dampened by enthusiasm slightly. Still overall an incredible film and experience I wont forget. Thanks for stopping by Franz, appreciate it 🙂

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  5. Nice, man. Glad you liked it. I’ve watched it twice so far, and it was even better the second time around. My wife loved it, too. It’s brutal, for sure, but I love how the focus switches around half-way through. Since you mentioned enjoying reading others thoughts on it, I did review it years ago:

    http://greenpeoplesoup.blogspot.com/2009/10/torture-and-then-some-martyrs-2008.html

    Have a look if you want. I don’t remember much of what I said, lol.

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    • Thanks mate. Yeah I loved the change in direction, was never sure what was gonna happen next! Just read your review, I commented on your site since you went into a few more details than I did. I felt since I watched it knowing very little and loved it so much others may enjoy it the same way. A few nice shocks in store for them hopefully. No way my wife will ever watch it though! Loved your your review, very thorough 🙂 Thanks for the comment

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  6. I have heard good things about this film and you just reminded me that I need to see it (and human centipede).

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    • Nice one, let me know your thoughts when you catch it. Human Centipede was good I thought, obviously sick as hell but at least it was within the realms of possibility, medically I mean. Part 2 however, was terrible in every single way.

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  7. I loved this movie! The best part was the ending…so gripping!

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    • Part of me would love to know what was said at the end! That’s the best bit I guess, drawing your own conclusions. Great movie though, thanks for the comment 🙂

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  8. I rented this movie from a video store, so it was quite a while back. However, I remember it being tough to watch and I remember thinking the ending was brilliant; won’t say what I saw, but the last images of the main character are chilling. At some point, I’ll have to rewatch this film.

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  9. You’ve done a really good job of conveying what the film is like without giving away plot points – I pretty much wrote a running commentary of what was happening in my review and had to spell everything out!

    Really loved this movie – was amazed by the intensity of it and how compelling it was while at the same time being über violent. Disheartening to see that it has such a low score on Rotten Tomatoes, but again I think it’s people not being used to a movie like this and not knowing how to respond.

    Great review!

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    • Cheers Dave! I try to keep everything as spoiler free as I can, purely so I can recommend something and let people go in blind so to speak if they decide to see something based on my recommendations. Hard to do sometimes though!! The best bits of Martyrs are bits I couldn’t really mention!

      I actually commented on your ‘Inside’ review before (not sure if thats what brought you to Martyrs) but Im looking forward to reading your Martyrs thoughts when I get a minute.

      You going to check out Laugiers follow up to Martyrs ‘The Tall Man’?

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  10. Definitely one of my all time favs. The French know their horror.

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    • They certainly do. Without doubt one of the best horror, no, movies I have ever seen. Certainly unforgettable! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  11. kidmiracleshitter

     /  January 24, 2013

    Cool mention, I have been wanting to check this one out.

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  12. How to talk about this movie without revealing spoilers? It’s tough! Good to see your review was spoiler free! I found this one really hard to watch, but I think the last 20 minutes or so is what sets it apart from other “torture porn”. It’s just as nasty as those other films, if not nastier, but at least it has something to say, no matter how demented. I’ll admit that there’s little in horror that can truly scare me these days, but I actually struggled to sleep the same night after watching Martyrs! There’s an image from near the end of the movie that just haunted my dreams!

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    • Glad these archive images are catching peoples eye!! Yeah I always try and avoid spoilers, some of my earlier reviews like this maybe arent as good as Id like but all a good learning curve.

      I loved it, obviously, and whilst it is very tough to watch, as you say it tries to convey a message, albeit the true intentions are up for interpretation! Fascinating though, and glad you liked it!! Cheers for checking out this review 🙂

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      • Oh yeah, the archive pictures in your sidebar definitely work! Might nick the idea for my own sidebar! 😉

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        • Haha, steal away my friend. Just send me a thankyou cheque 😉

          I figure people are more likely to click big images, even if its just a few extra clicks on some old reviews its worth it. As you just proved, so thanks!!

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  13. top film, blew me away this one. Saw it yonks ago, still remember it. totally f’ed up but brilliant. Gonna take a look around your oldies mate, give ya a like or two.

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    • Glad you liked it. Insane but excellent. Another way of sharing my older stuff is adding these big images in the sidebar, works well and gets people checking out posts they might have missed. Appreciate you doing so my friend, will repay the favour and check out your pre-hiatus stuff 😉

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  14. Although Martyrs is undoubtedly shot with skill and talent its lack of subtleties and refusal to fully explore the bigger ideas and themes hinted at throughout somewhat cheapen the experience. Here is my review, http://www.moviereviewworld.com/movie-review/martyrs/

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    • Ill be sure to check out your thoughts, but for me the ambiguous tones worked, leaving me free to form my own conclusions. Incredible movie, and I hope you had some good things to say at least when I read your review 🙂

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  15. Deborah

     /  October 2, 2013

    In all of the reviews I have seen of this film, no-one, not one has understood why Mademoiselle removes her wig, head-scarf and make-up at the very end of the film before saying, “Keep doubting” and blowing her brains out. Whilst still mysogynistic it’s quite clear……

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    • If it’s quite clear to you I’d love to hear your theory. Was meant to be vague and open to interpretation, no one will know what she whispered, but always good to hear other fans theories 🙂

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  16. Great review buddy, I still haven’t seen this one. I’m not sure I’d have the balls to watch it, it does look particularly brutal.

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    • Cheers, makes me want to watch it again now youve mentioned it. Not a film for everyone thats for sure. You could always wait a few months as the US remake has been filmed 😦

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      • I’m not the biggest fan of remakes as they usually pale in comparison to the original. If anything, I’ll brave this movie just to give my thoughts on it.

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  1. Frontier(s) (2007) | Head In A Vice
  2. Inside (2007) | Head In A Vice
  3. The Tall Man (2012) | Head In A Vice
  4. Train (2008) | Head In A Vice
  5. Question Time XXII – Best Horror Movie | Head In A Vice
  6. The Killing Gene (2007) | Head In A Vice

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