Martyrs is a movie so nasty, gruesome, and disturbing that will change your life. We live our lives in small loops, usually just 16 hours long. As soon as you close your eyes, you fall asleep. This is how most of the population is living. Basically in the same tribal way, we humans have lived for thousands of years. Some things have changed, but the basics are the same. You’re caught in the churn, just trying to make it, never questioning things because you feel that the whole thing will fall apart if anything changes. And if you’re comfortable enough to start questioning the world and yourself, it takes you away from the population. The population that rejects the very notion of questioning. And that will not follow you into this dark void where the objective truth lies.
Director Pascal Laugier has confessed that he wrote the screenplay for the film in a state of clinical depression, bordering on suicidal thoughts, which is why the film is said to have a nihilistic and depressing subject matter. Martyrs is one of those movies that will stay with you for a very long time. It’s a masterpiece of modern cinematography and represents the very best that European cinema has to offer when it comes to the horror genre. It’s a bit difficult to watch, so you better prepare yourself for some fucked up themes and scenes. However, any discomfort you will feel should only make you happy because it is a sign that you are not as fucked up as you thought you were. Speaking of discomfort, a lot of people were physically sick after seeing Martyrs, so be aware of that.
Everything in this movie just worked towards this bleak atmosphere of despair and depression. This is the ultimate nihilistic experience along with I Stand Alone. So, if this premise intrigues you but you’re in a relatively positive atmosphere, leave it for one of “those days”. I noticed that when I’m going through some shit, I always watch some depressive movies or series. Probably to minimize my own troubles compared to those I am witnessing on screen. I will entirely skip the plot summary since it’s ultimately irrelevant, if you’re still not convinced to check out the movie, the plot won’t do it. And if you’re eager to delve into the depths of the void, it’s better to dive in with your eyes closed.
What makes Martyrs such a fucked up experience is the main story and just how much it rings true. You can’t help but wonder is there something like this going on right now. We know for a fact that similar things have happened in the past. And we also know that isolated incidents are actually quite common. I will stop here as I don’t want to reveal anything.
So, this is one hell of a package. Not only the story is fucked up but the visuals are as well. The final nail in the coffin are the high production values. I have to tell you that I watched this movie only once and I still remember almost everything. As I was looking for good screengrabs for this review, that same uncomfortable feeling came over me again.
Compared to Hostel and Saw, Martyrs is a much more traumatic experience, although they all feature almost the same elements. However, the devil is in the details and this time the devil called that abattoir his home. Inside, Frontiers and Haute Tension are much better examples, even Wolf Creek coming to us from Australia is a much closer entry than these mainstream horrors. These movies are a part of a New French Extreme, that finds its roots in the nineties with movies like Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. However, Frenchies have a long tradition in this genre. I will leave the link for this below if you want to check out more of these movies.
At this point, we should probably talk about the term torture porn movie. What started as an innocent splatter experiment soon veered off into more drastic and nasty features. We’re talking about movies like Canibal Holocaust, Man Behind the Sun, and Nekromantik. They have these very strong visuals that looked almost real and this trend continued in the nineties and is still going strong. Martyrs is a modern horror so a movie like A Serbian Film, August Underground and Aftermath.