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September 7, 2012

Movie Review: Martyrs (2008)

Directed by Pascal Laugier
Starring Morjana Alaoui, Mylene Jampanoi and Catherine Begin

Martyrs begins with a young girl, Lucie, as she is escaping from unknown assailants who have imprisoned and physically abused her for quite some time. For some unknown reason the perpetrators are never found. Lucie is placed in an orphanage where she befriends another girl named Anna. Anna soon discovers Lucie is terrorized by visions of a horribly disfigured woman covered in scars.

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Fifteen years later, Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi) bursts into the home of a seemingly normal family and kills all the family members with a shotgun. Distraught, she calls Anna and tells her she has found the people who tortured her as a child and has taken care of the situation but needs help. Apon arriving at the house Anna is horrifies by the carnage she see's and is worried Lucie might have killed the wrong people. While Lucie rests, Anna is busy trying to clear the house of the dead bodies, dragging them into the yard with the hopes of burying them. As she is doing this she discovers that the mother has somehow miraculously survived.

She decides she is going to try and help the woman escape but as she is dragging her away Lucie bursts forth with a sledge hammer and pummels the woman over the head until it is nothing but a greasy stain on the floor. Completely distraught that her life-long friend doubts her belief that these were in fact the people who imprisoned her, Lucie grabs a box cutter, jumps through a window and then slashes her own throat. Anna makes a death shroud for her friend and places her on the couch, moments later after cleaning the blood from her friends face she discovers a secret passageway behind a cabinet that leads to some type of underground facility. Within the facility she sees the walls adorned with large pictures of people. People who have been mutilated and are near death. Soon after, she discovers a horribly emaciated woman covered in scars. She has been chained to the floor and has some type of iron mask over her face. Anna realizes the woman has been here for years since the womans scalp has grown around parts of the mask. She frees the woman and helps her back into the house where she places her in a bathtub and uses a screwdriver to remove the mask from the womans head.

It is at this point (about two thirds of the way into the movie) where Iam going to end my plot description. I simply couldnt live with myself if I spoiled the ending of this movie for anyone who hasnt seen it. Suffice to say, it takes a very bizarre and extremely violent turn in the story, taking you in a direction you are not going to be expecting.

Martyrs is dark and disturbing on a level few horror movies attain. And I must admit, although feeling a bit repulsed through most of this movie, once it was over and I had a chance to catch my breath and consider what I had just witnessed, I found myself completely enthralled by what I'd just experienced. Director Pascal Laugier has done a magnificent job of creating characters we can connect with and care about while at the same time forcing us to witness those characters victimized so horribly that even jaded horror fans will have a tough time getting some of the images out of their minds long after they have walked away from this one. And I also applaud Laugier for doing what most movie makers simply dont have the balls do to. He doesnt dance around the rabbit hole, he throws you face-first down into it, and forces you to experience the horrors as if you are chained up right next to the main characters. It is brutally violent from start to finish, and I personally found myself exhausted by the time it was over. There is just absolutely no let-up.

The effects were outstanding, the violence, ultra-realistic, and the acting was quite good as well. But the most uniquely awesome things about Martyrs for me was the plot twist. Unlike most American made torture/revenge movies which throw in a surprise in the last 5 or so minutes of the film, this movies plot twist happens as I stated earlier, about two thirds of the way in, allowing plenty of time for development of an entirely new story-line which ties the entire story together perfectly. And it's not a pretty bow that ties it together, it is a noose that is wrapped around the viewers throat and cinched down tight. This is an ultra-violent movie that turns into something that is border-line unwatchable in its savagery even for someone as thick-skinned as myself. I must tell you, it is brilliant....but it is not for the squeemish.

It was shocking and heart-wrenching and definitely a movie I will not soon forget.

9 OUT OF 10 Reviewed by KennyB

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