Martyrs (2008)


(director/writer: Pascal Laugier; screenwrer: EG Smithcinematographers: Nathalie Moliavko-Visotzky/Stephane Martin; editor: Sebastien Prangere; music: Alex & Willie Cortes/Seppuku Paradigm; cast: Morjana Alaoui (Anna), Mylene Jampanoi (Lucie), Catherine Begin (Mademoiselle), Robert Toupin (Mr Belford, Father), Patricia Tulasne (Mrs. Belford, Mother), Isabelle Chassé (The Creature), Mike Chute (The Executioner), Anie Pascale (The Female Executioner),Emilie Miskdjian (The Tortured), Juliette Gosselin (Marie), Xavier Dolan-Tadros (Antoine), Jessie Pham (Lucie at 10); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Richard Grandpierre/Simon Trottier; Bir Film (Weinstein); 2008-Canada/France-in French with English subtitles)

It should fare well with fans of hardcore gore looking for something subversive.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Torture and sadism rule this arthouse splatter film by French director-writer Pascal Laugier(“The Brotherhood of the Wolf“/”House of Voices“/”The Tall Man”). It flaunts its extremist filming style of violence and in the end poses uncomfortable questions about martyrdom.

A battered young Lucie (Jessie Pham) manages to escape from her mystery captors, who held her in an abandoned slaughterhouse and abused her. The traumatized ten-year-old is removed from the questionable family and is placed in an orphanage, where she befriends another victim of child abuse, Anna (Morjana Alaoui). The new friend is not sure whether Lucie’s fears are real or imagined, which is also the way the viewer sees it.

The film jumps ahead 15 years to when the now revenge-minded nutty young adult Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) in a cold-blooded manner uses a shotgun to execute the upscale Belford family of four at breakfast. Afterward she phones Anna to say she got even with the family who tortured her. When Anna comes over, she’s told by the bloodied Lucie she was attacked by a naked woman monster brandishing a razor. The unfortunate Anna learns to her regret that Lucie’s attacker was only in her head, as was everything else.

It results in a superbly well-executed surreal film, eschewing the usual slasher film formulaic devices in favor of the psychologically macabre. It’s filled with many shocking excessive violent scenes and a profoundly twisted Grand Guignol conclusion. It should fare well with fans of hardcore gore looking for something subversive, while others might not take such delight in all the gore and its inventive but awkward loopy ending.