Well hey there cool cats, it’s 2016 and I’ve finally got around to a review. Holy crap. I hope that you’ve been enjoying the podcast for the last few weeks, we haven’t gotten a ton of feedback so I’m going to take that to mean that the legions of you listening have literally no issues with it what so ever. Anyways, let’s get serious and chat about Martyrs.
A woman and her childhood friend seek out revenge on those who victimized and abused them.
Directly by the Goetz brothers, Kevin and Michael (Scenic Route), and written by Mark L. Smith (The Revenant), Martyrs feels like a film making a statement that it doesn’t quite understand. Exposition delivered from the members of the mysterious organization is clunky, and is said with such gravitas that it would be easy to mistake it for trying to make a point. However, when you step back and look at it, it quickly becomes clear that the movie is saying nothing at all. The original film presented as a slightly more intellectual exercise than it really was, however the first effort in 2008 still managed to back up it’s “big ideas” with an intensely brutal film.
I hesitate to make too many comparisons to the original movie, as I don’t find that helps to have much of a conversation about a remake, but this version has forced me to do so. Despite following, essentially, the same story line as the original, there is something strangely safe about this movie. The brutality and edge has been sanded off of the story, and you’re left with something that feels amateurish and a bit like the first feature of a film school graduate. Had this been the directorial debut of the Goetz, this may have made more sense, but they’ve made films before, and this missed the mark.
It seems that in it’s Americanized form, Martyrs has become a generic movie that brims to the top with mediocre dialogue, and just-ok performances. The two actors are flat, though I have a feeling they will be given credit for their ability to scream and cry, though it’s in subtle parts of a performance that an actors ability really shines and that doesn’t seem to be present here.
There’s a lot of exposition and back story building both between our two main characters becoming friends in an orphanage, as well as the conversation about what Martyrs are. The film’s ideas and themes are spoon-fed to the audience rather than allowing for subtlety. The unfortunate thing is, that had this not been a remake and stood alone as a new and unique story, you could make the case for it actually not being a bad movie. That said, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons and see the ways in which the original film did the same basic story in a substantially better way. You are taken through the protagonist’s suffering and forced to live it with her in the original, in this, we have are shown a few grim scenes and then expected to understand the suffering. It’s all very bland this time.
Martyrs does succeed in one area, and that is the cinematography. The overall look of the movie, and the way many shots are composed is quite appealing, if not a bit boring near the end. It feels like more time was spent in the beginning of the film, and less and less attention was paid as the ending approached. Perhaps it was shot chronologically and the money just ran out by the end. The final scene, for example, appears to have been thrown together for $80, while the first half of the movie really is well assembled.
Most disappointing is the ending of this movie. The original film was bleak, and quite upsetting to watch. The protagonist was flayed alive, and there is a brutal and yet beautiful scene of a skinless Anna having become a “martyr”. This time around, however, the flaying has been omitted completely and instead, Lucie has her back sliced up and she is put up on a cross with straps.
It removes the punch and the impact of the ending, in favour of a cliched ending in which Anna escapes death and fights her way back to rescue her friend. They share a loving moment together and the movie fades into a flash back. Creating an ending as bland as the rest of the movie was.
This is a case of “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed”. It’s not completely incompetent, but it’s really just another generic horror movie amidst a sea of generic horror movies. If you haven’t seen the original yet, I’d recommend giving it a watch, and if you have, just watch it again and let’s all forget about this one. What a shame.
FINAL GRADE: **