Monday, March 21, 2011


Blood is the ultimate cliche in horror.  Its way too overly used.  Nowadays if you want to make a horror movie stand out you throw buckets of blood everywhere in some kind of half hearted attempt to out hardcore the plethora of other horror titles assailing our market.  Yet some of the best horror directors in the world like John Carpenter and Wes Craven will tell you that buckets of blood don't make a horror movie good.  Look at the old black and white Universal horror movies with Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff.  Their movies stand the test of time and not one drop of blood is seen on screen.  Why?  I have been reading a lot on MARTYRS and almost all of it is positive.  I'm here to give my dissenting opinion.  This movie is terrible.  Its awful.  Its boring.  Its predictable.  Why?  MARTYRS lacks the main key ingredient to a truly great horror film.  Imagination.

MARTYRS is a cold, cruel, stale piece of film making.  To be fair it is well acted and it is shot well enough if nothing special.  The special effects are great and very effective.  It will disturb you.  On a technical level the film is just fine.  My major complaint stems from how unoriginal the film is.  There really isn't much of a story here is there?  Think about it.  Is there really a plot to this film?  If so, what is it?

In a nutshell MARTYRS tells the story of a young girl (Lucie) who escapes a crazy family that was torturing her.  She grows up in an orphanage and makes friends with another girl (Anna) who I guess is in love with her.  To be honest both these girls look exactly the same to me.  Just look at the picture above.  After recognizing the crazy family that tortured her in the newspaper, Lucie shows up to their house and shotguns the whole family kids and all.  Anna shows up after and is appalled by what her friend has done.  Then the middle of the movie is about finding excuses to linger around the house until Lucie kills herself leaving Anna alone to discover a hidden torture chamber.  Suddenly these weird religious people show up who I guess never knew that there was such a thing as the New Testament in the Bible.  The reason why I say that is because they capture Anna and lock her down in the basement where they spend the rest of the movie torturing her to the point where they skin her alive.  Why?  Because she is the martyr to pay for all their sins so they can get into heaven.  I think that was what was going on.  I'm not sure because after they show poor Anna without any skin and still alive I fainted.  That's right I'm a wuss.  In my defense though I would like to point out that I hadn't eaten for twenty four hours and that has a tendency to happen to me when I don't eat. 

See? There is no plot.  There is only a series of events to make an excuse to show some poor girl skinned alive.  The whole thing is padding.  When the movie gets too boring someone (usually Lucie) starts to bleed to keep us interested as if all we want to see is blood.  After the family is gunned down Anna discovers that the mom is still alive.  She tries to help the mom escape.  So you have this long segment of the two trying to walk down the hallway as slowly as possible and of course Lucie shows up and kills the mom.  I have noticed that this kind of segment happens in a lot of horror movies that are fixated in one place.  In HUMAN CENTIPEDE the escaping girl goes back and tries to drag her friend out of the house to only get caught again.  In THE STRANGERS Liv Tyler hurts her leg so she has to crawl around the front yard so the movie can go on longer than it needs to.  These movies would be over in five minutes if people had working legs and the smarts to just walk away.

I think its unfair to call movies like HOSTEL and the SAW franchise torture porn.  They do focus on torture as the main attraction to their horror.  But those films have style, originality (sort of) and stories with plots about escaping and discovering that stupid twist ending crap that keeps happening and never ends even though they say its the last one.  They made SCREAM 4 who is to say they won't make SAW 8?  My point is that there is more going on with those films whether you like them or not.  I happen to really like the first SAW and the second HOSTEL big time.  MARTYRS simply tries to out do HOSTEL in the "disturbing department".  HOSTEL did the "cutting the eye off with scissors" gag.  MARTYRS did the "skinning a girl alive" gag.  Also I don't hear anyone talking about how this film blatantly steals from THE GRUDGE.  Yea, Lucie is kind of screwed up on account of her childhood torture.  She sees this demon lady that keeps attacking her throughout the film.  At first you might think that MARTYRS is kind of a supernatural ghost story.  The problem is that we have seen too many movies and we know already that the creature is just in her mind.  Twist fail.  The way the creature crawls and slides into view in that weird disjointed way is so THE GRUDGE or THE RING.  Gorewise, MARTYRS isn't anything you haven't seen before.  Think HELLRAISER minus the awesome Cenobites.

MARTYRS is the best example of the term "torture porn".  The last few minutes of the film is nothing more than some poor girl chained to a chair or wall getting beat up.  She can't escape she just gets tortured.  That's all.  There is little difference to this film and junk like FACES OF DEATH.  (yes, I know its fake)  Does anyone know how easy it is to make a movie like this?  Watch some random horror movie and then take the most extreme aspect of the film and make a whole movie around that.  How about having a girl get autopsied for two hours while she is still alive?  Yea, that's horror!  The first hour this crazy doctor cuts open her stomach and chest but keeps her alive to feel everything and then the last hour he starts cutting on her face.  Yea, that's hardcore!  And you know what?  The gore hounds would probably hail it as a triumph in thoughtful, disturbing extreme cinema.  They will strive to find a deeper meaning to all that they have witnessed deeming it a metaphor on sexual repression to impress their college professors.   

To me MARTYRS represents what is wrong with most modern horror movies.  It revels in its cruelty as a way to be noticed.  Its not fun to watch.  It fails in the scare department.  There is not one moment of levity in the entire running time.    Its bleak, bland and really boring.  Its way overrated to say the least.  Yes, it is disturbing but there is more to this genre than being extreme. Its just one long suicidal thought. You know somebody saw this movie and said "Hey, I can make a horror movie way more extreme than MARTYRS!  I think I will call it A SERBIAN FILM!"...................sigh.



  1. Yep cruelty for cruelties sake - pretty distasteful not really frightening at all, merely sickening.

    Korean movie I Saw The Devil and the remake of I Spit On Your Grave kinda fit into that for me as well - ISOYG (the remake) is probably one of the most disturbing movies I have seen.

  2. I am glad somebody else agrees with me. I do feel like we are in the minority on this movie in the horror community. Thanks for the really great comments.

  3. I actually really enjoyed this movie; the idea of reaching a level of pain intense enough to reach a state of nirvana was pretty interesting to me. I do agree that violence strictly for shock value is shit film making, I have great distaste for what you would call "torture porn", but I felt the brutality in Martyrs had a point.

    That being said, A Serbian Film was just so over the top that it was hilarious to me. It pretty much epitomizes the phrase "series of unfortunate events" in the worst way.