Review of Martyrs

Martyrs (2008)
A masterpiece of Modern Horror
12 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
To avoid fainting, keep repeating : it's only a movie,...But this time it is for real.

I will start off by saying that Martyrs is probably the most shocking horror film in a very long time, the concept of a revenge-flick upgraded to extremes.The French have been known for making extremely violent flicks over the past few years and this time it was Pascal Laugier's turn to provide us with a movie that is meant to be more shocking than entertaining, the reason why horror movies were made back in the seventies. And indeed, Martyrs is an unapologetic throwback to the seventies-horror flicks( the likes of The Last House On The Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre come to mind ) but Laugier uses the methods he can use and makes it even more shocking than these films are.

Apart from being the most shocking and disturbing horror movie in this long time ( were the aforementioned titles or Cannibal Holocaust were just very disturbing),this film is also very scary and creepy : i can stomach a lot but at some parts in this movie I really was creep-ed out and scared to death. This is an extremely scary movie. The script is absolutely fantastic : it manages to combine 3-4 different happenings into one movie and contains several nods to other recent horror-works or to the classics without falling into plagiarism. Then we also have the direction of Pascal Laugier :It isn't anything we haven't seen before but he certainly is a man who knows how to build up and it shows during a lot of the scenes where he manages to keep the audience very tense and frightened. He is a man who takes a very poetic approach to the visuals and really, some of the visuals are very beautiful. Just like Xavier Gens did with Frontière(s), Laugier manages to give his film a very polished look while still keeping it dirty. The whole movie has some sort of atmosphere of dread, just like Hooper's TCM had. Yes, you have read it: Martyrs is a very atmospheric movie. The acting is very credible, especially from the two main actresses. I was sold. And then there's the gore : Laugier didn't want to make a blood-fest.Well it turned out to be some sort of a gorepic, but obvious it wasn't the director's main target. The gore is NOT the kind of gore the audience likes to see. This isn't a film where you really are waiting for the next victim to be bloodily dispatched, the violence in this film is much worse than anything that is shown in movies like Hostel,Wrong Turn 2,... It isn't as gory, there are no geysers of blood and maybe this isn't real gore. Gore is supposed to be fun this is much worse : it is realistic violence, graphic as all hell and incredibly difficult to stomach. Keep in mind that this isn't a happy-go-slashing slasher-film but I will say there are some really disgusting scenes which are hard to stomach, even for the real gore-hounds (like myself) due to the way the violence is portrayed. Compliments for Laugier to create a film that really does shock us with its explicit violence, just like Noe's Irreversible did.

The soundtrack also is worth mentioning, it is experimental but it really works. It is at times a very melancholic type of soundtrack but very memorable. I won't spoil anything for you, but I will tell you something about the end of the movie. Making it through the last 20 minutes of Martyrs is a tough task. This part of the movie is extremely sad, but ends up being very poetic and very beautiful. The very end of the movie is almost cynical, without becoming comedic. The movies stays true to its dark roots and will leave you saddened. That being said: people looking for an entertaining slasher-film will be very disappointed, but people looking for a film that will be remembered for a very long time and that will be talked about like they still talk about some of the shocking classics should give this movie a try. Like somebody already mentioned, this movie veers closer to Irreversible than to ,lets say, Inside or Haute Tension to which it has been compared. And I wonder what the MPAA would make of this. Again, NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART !!!
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