I am a huge horror film aficionado. I like classic horror, slashers, foreign, underground, art house, you name it. But oftentimes I disagree with the popular vote in the horror community and one prime example of that divide was with the French film Martyrs from 2008. It was a beautifully filmed movie with a very intriguing premise and had me on the hook for the first while, but when it got to a particular torture scene that was repetitive and went on for what seemed like an eternity, it lost me. I have no problem with violence and/or gore in movies. None at all. When it is utilized to great effect in a film like Inside, a fantastic French horror film from 2007, it is essential. Or High Tension from 2003. But in Martyrs it actually had me rolling my eyes in its persistence to keep repeating the act over and over for no apparent reason. Which brings us to now with a new American remake of Martyrs. Which had me very curious what they would do with a film I thought was deeply flawed in execution.
Ten-year-old Lucie (Ever Prishkulnik) escapes from an isolated warehouse where she had been tortured by unknown assailants. She is placed in an orphanage where she grows up deeply traumatized and plagued by horrific nightmares. Her only solace is being befriended by Anna (Elyse Cole). A decade later Lucie (Troian Bellisario) is still haunted and tracks down the couple that tormented her and exacts her revenge. But when Anna (Bailey Noble) comes to help her they discover the unfathomable truth about who tortured Lucie as a child and why.
Much to my surprise, I liked this telling of Martyrs far more than the original. The storytelling was much more coherent and linear, the acting and writing still well done, the look of the film still stylish, but the extremes of the torture were toned down in their graphicness and in the longevity in which they were presented. Which is not to say the impact of those scenes were toned down, quite the opposite. The scenes are still excruciating and horrible, but done in a less exploitative way. I think anyone that argues the original is better simply because there is more graphic torture is missing the point. Torture and gore do not make a great horror movie, structure does. As I said before, I have no problem with torture and gore in horror, I love it, but I think in the case of Martyrs it works better in the remake execution of it. But that’s just my opinion… for any horror fan willing to give it a try, Martyrs is well worth it. Just don’t prejudge it, let it ride on its own merit. Highly recommended.