Martyrs (2008)


Day 25 of 31

Director: Pascal Laugier.
Starring:Morjana Alaoui Mylène Jampanoï . Canada. 1h 34m.

This film comes straight out of left field and doesn’t ever give any real explanation for it’s bizarre and wildly disturbing nature and really crushes your guts at the end, but it’s a delight to muse over. On the outset it’s pretty forgivable to assume this is just another excuse for torture porn styled horror, without spending a lot of time thinking about the gruesome detail it’s easy to see how it all boils down to the persecution of women, so no brownie points there but simmering around the narrative are lots of other social and religious questions, most of which will turn anyone insane if you go into them in great detail.


A young girl escapes an abandoned abattoir beaten and bleeding she runs seeking help, it turns out that Lucie Jurin had experienced nothing but brutal beatings but in an orphanage she makes friends with Anna Assaoui and confides in her that she’s being haunted by a ghostly ghoul from her past. 15 years later they break into the Belfonds family home, the family Lucie  believes tortured her, Anna goes along as moral support but after Lucie despatches the family and starts fighting with the “Ghoul” Anna only see’s her fighting herself, confirming that the emaciated woman who’s been stalking her is imaginary. Lucie commits suicide, Anna sticks around, calls her mother to make amends and gives insight into being abused, she then discovers a trapdoor and basement to the house, that’s when Sarah escapes, she has obviously been and is still being tortured in unspeakable ways, Anna tries to help her but the girl is so traumatised but suddenly the girl is shot and killed by a group lead by a  woman who calls herself the “Mademoiselle” who his head of  a secret philosophical society seeking to discover the secrets of the afterlife through the creation of “martyrs”. Their experiments inflict systematic acts of torture upon young women in the belief that their suffering will result in a transcendental insight into the world beyond this one. This is when things start to get really messy.

The atmosphere is constantly set on “twilight” and the mood grows from dark to pitch and continues to grow and feed on fears and uncertainties. After the bizarre beginning of a beaten child running through the streets, the film quickly retreats to the Belfonds ultra modern residence. But within the confines of basement the most barbaric practices are played out and look as if it should all be happening in the bowels of a Spanish church or within a Bosch landscape.

One of the most intriguing scenes apart from the mind blowing ending was how easy the film falls from paranoia into full on torture. The flesh really has no respect or chance of survival here. When the girls break into the home and encounter the tortured and sensory deprived girl played by Anie Pascale who is an amazing actress, I genuinely felt something snap at that point, it felt so real, her actions along with trying to process how and why she was bolted up in such as way really kick started the films descent into madness.

The biggest and quirk in the movie is the ending but I really can’t ruin that right now but I will go into detail during the post discussion.The screenplay is quite creative as the film is so layered but Pascal Laugier did a beautiful job at introducing physical and imaginary characters. there is a lot of emotive scenes, which are enhanced by a huge contrast in the painful screaming victims and the almost automotive prisoners and guards, it feels like they act like a collective and without individual emotions.

Admittedly even though I am addicted to gore and disturbing films I thought that maybe the violence was distracting from the message but at the same time they match each other in brutal honesty.

People play a purpose in this movie as much as we follow Anna on her forced journey  everyone soon becomes aware of their potential to become very disposal very quickly. and there is this flow between characters like they are passing on the victim baton, each one getting tortured to more depraved extremes. These beatings are clearly depicted and meticulously detailed through clever effects and filming, the only film I had seen which showed such brutality to women in this manner was in other French Extreme films such as Frontiers and Haute Tension, it’s not just the typical gore and blood it’s the humiliating variety of torture that’s thrown in for added bitter flavours. It’s so common to assume that there is more pain due to more screaming, and a lot of american films are just hours of yelling and pleading but what makes this so gut wrenching is that it’s not like Saw

Director Pascal Laugier  had experimented with a lot of documentaries, mostly on the making of Le Pact De Loups after faffing around a ghostly tale called Saint Ange (2004) which also stars the same duo from this film, then out of nowhere he really let rip with this epicly dark tale. But sadly never really matched it’s strength since but I live in hope. It brings together a lot of macabre imagery with so much mystery. I feel that if anything was explained earlier on it would have ruined the film, but the tension built up by the strange circumstances and graphic violence and this overlooming “not knowing” is profound but I think it’s won over the sick sad fans by the insane revelations in the latter parts of the film.

It could have been It could have fallen into so many traps, it could have literally harped on about female persecution at the hands of the church and even though the movie does try to justify and explain why it cleverly bullshits and approves the notion,. There will be more about this in the Post Discussion and it really digs into the ending of film which still gets mused over from time to time.
As a nightmarish disturbing movie that is aimed to make your skin crawl as well as question religion and history, the film does it job, so much of the imagery is hard to shake from your psyche. I think a lot of viewers will just see as violence and nothing else but there is a lot under the surface to ponder but if pain, gore and demonic imaginary friends are your

Rating 09/10


RFrontier(s) (2008), Haute Tension (2003), Murder Set Pieces (2004),
L -New French Extremism, Top 50 Disturbing Films
A -New French Extremism

Post Discussion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.