Little Lucie runs down the street with her bare feet and her bruised skin swelling to the surface. Tears stream down her terrified face, but she doesn’t dare dream of glancing behind her to see if anyone is on her trail. She made it out, and that’s all that matters. Lucie escaped that hellish abyss where the days bled together and the constant, unexplained torture inflicted upon her by silent strangers as she sat chained to a chair sent her over the edge and into the realm of terrifying hallucinations. Lucie doesn’t know why these men spent so many hours hurting her, all she knows is that she got out, and now she can start to move on with her life, and regain some sense of rhythmic normality.
But how does one recover from such horrific trauma? Even if a person survives being kidnapped and undergoing repeated assault, once they leave that room that holds all of their darkest secrets, can they ever return to the person that they were before they entered? In Lucie’s case, letting go of her demons just isn’t possible for a girl who has been so close to death. That’s why she meets the family that she holds responsible for her torment at their front door with a shotgun, and begins firing away.
Based on the brutal 2008 French Canadian philosophical thriller written and directed by Pascal Laugier, remaking a movie for American audiences that has a fan base as loyal as Martyrs is a bold move. Directors (and brothers) Kevin and Michael Goetz tackle this difficult challenge by toning back on the violence, altering the lifespan of some of the characters, and focusing mostly on the lifelong friendship between Anna and Lucie.
Fans of the original will probably see it as fairly pointless, but when you’re plugged into the horror community, it’s easy to forget that most people have never seen the French Martyrs. Whether it be the fact that they couldn’t track down a copy, they heard about the gratuitous violence and decided to avoid it, or, probably most likely, they just didn’t want to read subtitles, many people have never been exposed to the 2008 nihilistic genre mash up that combined three sub genres into one: supernatural, home invasion, and horrifying torture porn. In fact, removing some of the more abusive moments from the feature may actually play out well, with Blumhouse now announced to produce, sticking to the bare minimum plot points while holding back on the barbaric antics will attract just the kind of crowds they’re looking for — young adults who have never seen the original.
Unfortunately, reeling in that younger target audience means sacrificing much of the exaggerated, disturbing material, resulting in a lack of the vicious grit that made the original so iconic. Mostly though, aside from creating a much tamer version, the 2015 Martyrs headed by the Goetz brothers feels too similar to the first film, bordering on a shot-for-shot remake that doesn’t really bring anything new or worthwhile to the table in order to justify its existence. Overall, this is a decent film, but it’s not much more than that. Hopefully, this depiction will arouse curiosity for the much harsher original, and encourage fans to seek out the French cult classic, which sadly, proves to be a much impactful film.
Photo Credit: Emily Hsieh