Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Martyrs (2008)

Director: Pascal Laugier
Notable Cast: Morjana Alaoui, Mylene Jampanoi

There are only two words that aptly describe the experience I had watching the French film "Martyrs". Holy fuck. I honestly had heard various things going into the film but when I actually sat down to watch destroyed all those expectations and still did a number on me. Director Pascal Laugier takes a rather basic concept, twists and turns it with craftsmanship at high velocity, and then unleashes it as a film that defies all of the conventions of being both a horror film and a psychological horror film.  

Two girls (Alaoui and Jampanoi) meet reluctantly at an orphanage at kids. One is the victim of extreme abuse at the hands of mysterious strangers, only barely escaping with her life. The other is the support structure who's love for her childhood friend has turned to intense dedication. The two, now young women, have decided to take it into their own hands to find those who tortured the little girl years before and extract a little revenge of their own while they still have the rage and push to do so...but what they discover about the perpetrators will take them further then they ever imagined.

I could try to explain why I loved the story so much...but there are so many shockers in it and such oddly crafted (but very powerful) moments all the way through, but I would give those away and this film is an experience of story telling. It's built like a classic revenge tale that ends up not at all like any you have ever seen before. The film flows almost like a stream of conscience in its story telling as it seamlessly blends in torture horror, psychological horror, and some straight out ghostly apparitions into a dramatic tale of discovery. Let's just say that with the riveting acting performances from our two leading ladies and a gut wrenching story of super violence, love (perhaps not the way you might be thinking of now), and redemption that "Martyrs" is far more as a whole than its parts as it bombards the viewer with extreme themes and thoughtful character work.

With a strong visual sense of direction from Laugier and beautifully brutal performances for our actresses, the film is highlighted by its combination of elements. It's brutal violence (with some significant amount of gore...come one, its one of those crazy French horror films!) and grotesquely haunting 'visions' definitely lend the film in a horror direction, but the film truly is more than that in its seething undercurrent. 

 I spent a good couple hours trying to conjure up what I would say on a review for this, and this is essentially all I have. Everything comes together beautifully in "Martyrs" and if I don't want to give it away I just have to keep this one a little vague. In a genre that is notoriously filled with crap, when someone comes along and makes a film that is this artistic without losing what makes a horror film great, it is a very special thing and a requirement for any kind of film student or general viewer. If you can stomach some of the brutality then this is a must see. One of the best films, ever, made for the genre. Period. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider 

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