OCTOBER 20, 2008
I was bummed that the scheduling of Screamfest would prevent me from seeing Martyrs with a big crowd, because everything I had heard about the movie concerned its public reaction. I knew nothing about the plot (I knew it was survival horror, that’s about it), but everyone who had seen it had a lot to say about how they FELT about it, or how the crowd was left stunned and silent. Since Horror Movie A Day began as a way of “discussing” horror movies with people, I thought it would be a good one to sit around and discuss with some of the folks who I had been sitting in the dark with for the entire week. But alas, I had to get to the New Bev. The Bev above all.
Luckily, a friend had a PAL import DVD, so I was able to at least watch the movie while opinions were still fresh in the mind of Screamfest attendees, so I hope a few chime in with how they felt.
Personally, I’m sort of on the fence. I loved the batshit opening, which seemed to combine French survival horror (they still do it better than anyone!) with Asian hyper-violence and even a goddamn monster straight out of Lovecraft. But, like anyone will tell you, it’s hardly a fun film to watch, and it’s ultimately sort of numbing, particularly the 3rd act, which is little more than a girl being smacked around while chained to a chair. And you may have noticed the peculiar genre tag (is this the first film to combine these subgenres?), a story element that is odd in that it feels out of nowhere but at the same time, gives the film an actual plot. Without it, it would be just as worthless a film as Broken. However, its execution is far from perfect, so again – I’m on the fence.
In a way, the film would make a good companion piece to Funny Games. In that film, we are sort of mocked for “wanting” to see this sort of violence, and yet we never really see any. In this one, once we get to the point where we want it to stop (and it seems that it will), it becomes, if anything, more intense. By the 70 minute mark, I contemplated shutting the film off; not because I hated it, but because I realized the window was open and the film had become an almost nonstop series of shrieking and the obvious sounds of a woman being abused.
And then there’s the conclusion, which is strangely poetic and horrifying all at once. The point of the film is made (sort of) clear – I won’t spoil it here since the film hasn’t really been released here yet – and then it just ends. Some hate the lack of a firm conclusion, but I didn’t mind it much. It’s like the ending of No Country For Old Men – the point of the film is in the title, and thus the traditional wrapping up of the “story” isn’t the priority.
Gore nuts will definitely love the film. Visceral shotgun blasts, a metal plate being ripped off of someone’s scalp, a woman skinned alive, throat slashing.... if there was ever a film that could appeal to both teenage wannabe Savinis and 40 year old horror “scholars”, it would definitely be this. Speaking of the gore - I would definitely recommend going in blind to this one – something that occurs early on is the biggest shock of the film, and I suspect it is something that would be given away in any plot synopsis.
So, I dunno. I can’t exactly say it’s on my top 10 list, but it’s certainly a film that demands a viewing from intelligent horror fans. Had the “old woman” character been weaved into the narrative in a better fashion, I’d probably give the film a higher rating. Also, while its violence is shocking, it’s not suspenseful in the manner that an equally “intense” film like Inside is, which makes a 2nd viewing something I would never want to consider. But if you’re a woman-hating gorehound who loves French dialogue and a sound mix that may result in your arrest, I wholeheartedly recommend Martyrs!
What say you?