“All her suffering will have been for nothing.”
In 2008, at the height of the torture porn era, the French were in the middle of their own little moment in nasty films. Among such charmers as Irreversible and Baise-moi, horror director Pascal Laugier set loose Martyrs upon the world. A brutal, brutal little number that managed that not only quenched the thirst of even the most bloodthirsty of horror fans, but it was also infinitely smarter and much more meaningful than most would have given it credit for on first look. An amazing little movie, it was easily one of the best horror films of the last few years and is one of those rare ones that sticks with you long after you’ve seen it.
So, what did the Americans do? They took the film, sanitised it, removed all of its nuance and meaning and sold it back to us like a cheap bar selling us watered down beer. In dirty glasses. That they’ve pissed in.
Directed by Kevin and Michael Goetz and written by Mark L. Smithen, Martyrs is set years ago, as Lucie (Troian Bellisario – never heard of her, I think she done an episode of NCIS once) escapes from an isolated warehouse. Tortured and beaten as a child, she suffers from constant waking nightmares caused by the trauma of her childhood ordeals. Now, her only solace comes in the form of her best friend, Anna (Bailey Noble – she was in True Blood long after I quit watching it), and the search for those that captured her all those years ago. But when her search sees her hitting the right track, her and Anna discover the grizzly truth behind Lucie’s kidnapping and what would have awaited her if she hadn’t escaped.
This isn’t a new thing, but the watered down horror remake is starting to wear a little thin with me. The original Martyrs wasn’t just a superbly bloody body-horror film, it had real heart and feeling behind it. Its look into religious ideals and the extreme lengths some can and will go to for their shiny happy feelings was a chilling one that left a very nasty taste in your mouth. Here, with this new one, the only taste left in your mouth is of the shit that’s just been flung at your face for the last hour and a half as the filmmakers make a real effort to remove all intelligence from the film and make it more like a run-of-the-mill teen filled horror.
I mean, the opening few minutes feature a young girl being haunted by this terrifying looking ghost of an old woman; the original film had me on the edge of my seat, biting my nails with tension. This remake basically takes that great little scene, and turns it into an unwashed old woman dancing about the young girls room in the dark; like your nan has had a senior moment and decided your room is actually some weird 40’s dance hall. And she’s naked. No tension whatsoever, but plenty of nightmares I guess.
To talk about the ending to either film would really spoil both, so I’m not going to dig too deep here. But this is where the new Martyrs commits its gravest crime. Those that have seen the 2008 original will shudder just at the thought of the ending. A truly horrific moment of cinema that leaves even the most hardened horror fan shaken and slightly unnerved. A nasty little bit of film that sticks with you long after the movie’s credits have run their course and left you chilled to the bone.
Fast forward to 2016 and we get an ending that you can see coming a mile away because you’ve seen it a thousand times before. As originality and genuine terror are replaced with generic horror tropes and a bland, unimaginative script that’s swapped a desperate search for the answers to the afterlife with an uninspired look at cheap horror 101. The writers and directors seem to have forgotten all about the scenes of just brutal torture that we were subjected to that made us realise just what these people were putting CHILDREN through. They have instead opted for a well-worn and safe road to their finale that simply leaves you bored.
Overall, there’s no reason at all for me to recommend this completely unnecessary and uninspired Martyrs remake. Go watch the original, because it’s much, much better (and a damn sight scarier). This ghastly fucking remake is about as fun as repeatedly treading on an upturned plug barefoot.