Day #165: Martyrs (2008)


[From IMDb:] 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.

My take:

Martyrs is horrifyingly brutal. This is true both of its depiction of violence – of which there is a lot – and of its overall narrative. In fact, it might be one of the most holistically brutal films that I’ve seen in quite a while.

Although I realise that there’s some contention about whether the movie is torture porn or not, for my part I never saw it that way. Torture porn – in my view, anyway – tends to depict violence for the primary purpose of titillation; it’s about being violent, bloody, and gory for the sake of it. The violence in Martyrs is all of these things, sure, but it also serves a greater narrative purpose – or, in other words, it reveals something about the characters, and/or moves the plot along.

Although there was lots (and, have I mentioned lots?) of violence, blood and gore in Martyrs – portrayed with the use of some horrifically realistic-looking special effects – it never felt to me like it was without purpose. I certainly never got any of the “Oh, that’s so cool/gross!” kind of entertainment out of it that I might get from watching, say…a zombie movie, either. It evoked a much more complex emotional response from me than that.

I also think that Martyrs does a great job of integrating new elements into the plot. We go from a movie about one psychologically damaged girl’s quest for revenge to a movie about a group of people dedicated to finding the meaning of the afterlife by torturing women, in a way that actually feels pretty organic. Let’s face it: many other movies have tried smaller transitions and failed miserably. It’s to Pascal Laugier’s credit that Martyrs isn’t similarly unsuccessful.

It’s not a movie without faults, but I do think that Martyrs is one of the more cohesive, fleshed out horror movies out there. It’s well a watch.


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