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Martyrs

 Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs is not a film…

…it is a weapon.

View it with extreme caution.

The film opens with a badly beaten child running down a street screaming — as if Laugier summoned the spirit of Pier Paolo Pasolini in writing (and directing) this grim tale – a rude awakening (and preparation?) to the next 98 minutes.   We find out during the documentary-style footage presented in the film’s opening credits that the girl, Lucy, escaped her captors. The captors did not sexually assault Lucy, but there is a hint that something more grotesque took place…

…15 years later, a modern (happy) French family sits down for breakfast. They laugh, and joke like any “normal” family. The doorbell rings…its Lucy all grown up…with a shotgun…

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Martyrs falls into the .05% of horror that actually succeeds in hitting a raw nerve (or several). The EXTREME violence is never deployed for the sake of violence, but rather to further support the underlying philosophy that comes full circle mid-movie. Not one drop of blood is wasted trying to appease gorehounds, rather, the blood acts as a storytelling device, where every drop is necessary for the full punch of the story. And believe me…it is a punch…and a kick…and a stab. You feel completely drained after witnessing the last 5 minutes. Drained, yet asking one question on your dried and cracked tongue because you forgot to breathe during those last crucial minutes. The question? I will leave it to you to figure it out.

In addition to the intense visuals, another key ingredient to this hard to swallow cake is the sound – both effects and score. Laugier masterfully uses sounds to his advantage; whether it’s the sound of the retractable ladder slamming down (shudder) or the agonizing (and cut off) last scream of the daughter of the aforementioned family, you will remember these sounds long after the movie. The score is equally agonizing – fast, rapid sounds during the action, and non-existent during the most painful scenes – a hauntingly beautiful contrast.

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The makeup and effects are another aspect worth mentioning – as they were both top notch. Where a good chunk of other horror movies would cut away at the last second, utilizing (and relying on) the audience’s imagination, Benoit Lestang’s close-up effects shine bright. His effects are not to be lumped with Giovanni Corridori’s eyeball mutilation in Zombi or Tom Savini’s screaming head decapitation in Day of the Dead – as those were (beautiful) ways of showing off one’s talents. Lestang’s effects are mostly simple, yet completely cringe-worthy displays of hatred and pain. It is also worth mentioning that Benoit Lestang committed suicide shortly after Martyrs wrapped. One wonders what he could have brought to the world of make-up effects and hopes he is in a better place, a place where Martyrs does not need to exist…

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The true power of Martyrs lies in its ability to haunt you for DAYS after you see it. When you have taken the full journey with the main character(s) – due to Laugier’s Hitchcock-ian switcheroo mid-movie – you are not only emotionally drained, you are haunted. You will be doing whatever it is you do three days later, whether it be buying your soy milk at Wal-Mart or masturbating to jailbait on 4chan – and I PROMISE you, it WILL hit you. You will have what is akin to a light acid flashback and lose whatever happiness you had in that moment. You will need to share this feeling with others, and God knows I did (fun fact: mothers do not appreciate it)…

…however, be careful – you hold a weapon in your hands.

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This entry was posted on January 20, 2011 by in Cinema Holocaust and tagged , .

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