Sure, I will admit it. I fell for it. The bait and switch of a flick that firmly convinces you that it is one specific type of film that it is actually not. I am guilty.
The movie Martyrs, a reboot of a French flick of the same name, opens with a pre-teen version of the supposed protagonist escaping the bound confines of a makeshift operating room, complete with clear plastic sheeting for walls, in a grunge coated warehouse. Nothing is truly revealed about her captors or the specific type of abuse she endured. Soon she is taken in by an orphanage for girls where she bonds with her best friend for life, Anna, who is to be Lucie’s confidant regarding the “monsters” who tortured her. One gets the feeling her night time visits in the home from a demonic female visitor she is terrified of might not actually be occurring.
The story jumps forward years, conveyed by words on the screen alone, to Lucie now in her twenties committing a bloody act of suburban slaughter using a double barrelled shotgun. Immediately contacting Anna by telephone, she implores her dear friend to bear witness to the carnage. Lucie is adamant that the victims of her rampage are the ones responsible for her abduction and torture as a child, begging Anna to assist her in a moonlit cover up of the murder scene.
So… at this point in the film I certainly thought I had the intimate details of genre and where the story would proceed to from this point on. Lucie is surely mentally unbalanced and seeing her tormentors’ faces attached to innocent bodies. Back in the 1970s this was frequently referred to as “seeing Charlie in the trees.” Of course, the rest of the flick will be sane Anna assisting insane Lucie until a safer course of action presents itself. I have witnessed variations on this theme many a time.
That is, until Lucie passes out, and Anna, in the process of cleaning up the gore, finds a locked door leading to a ladder that descends into a hidden lower level of the house.
Oh, my stars and garters, was I wrong about this one! At the risk of spoiling too much, Lucie is not hallucinating. All I can safely reveal is that the parties that wished to cause her such pain continue to harbor that goal. Their desired results are still obtainable. Events turn to Anna to stay strong, take charge, and help the only person she has ever truly loved. That’s right… this whole story revolves around a platonic sapphic love affair focused on trust, hope, and sacrifice. There’s also plenty of none-too-subtle symbolism regarding man’s need for cruelty and pain in the pursuit of knowledge. How far is too far? Is there a limit to what human beings should be able to comprehend?
The acting in Martyrs is top shelf without any doubt. I fully believed in Lucie’s madness when I was supposed to, Anna’s commitment and resolve, and the devout nature of the villain of the piece who bares a more than passing resemblance to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Even the acting chops of a younger female cast as an abducted prisoner were not in question, as she appeared to be truly terrified for her life.
Another element I couldn’t help but to notice in this film was the brilliant usage of artfully composed cinematography. The entire movie is delicious to watch, especially a bird’s eye view of a bed from under which a pool of blood is emerging. Simply breathtaking.
I just can not give Martyrs anything less than nine out of ten spooks. It is one of the best shockers I have seen in the past decade. Bon appetit.