Thursday, 4 February 2016

Martyrs (2016): Review

Martyrs is a 2016 American horror film. Directed by Kevin and Michael Goetz (Wrecked) and starring Troian Bellisario and Bailey Noble. The film is a remake of the seminal 2008 French film of the same name.

The film opens with a young Lucie (Bellisario) escaping captivity and being re homed in a convent where she meets future best friend Anna (Noble). Fast forward 10 years and a deranged Lucie storms a suburban home and exacts bloody revenge on her captors. Starting to lose touch with reality, Lucie reaches out to Anna who quickly gets dragged into a mass murder case, but also a worldwide religious conspiracy intent on creating martyrs who can potentially see through to the other side. This leads to a bloody finale which sees the girls achieve transcendence and discover the secrets of the universe before they die. 

Martyrs (2008) is not only one of the greatest French horror films out there but takes it's rightful place as one of the greatest horror films outright. Though the new wave of French extremity produced other gems (Haute Tension (2003) and Inside (2007), Martyrs perfectly encapsulated the savage but profound nature of the movement. And what do Americans do when they get their hands on complex, thought provoking foreign films? They dumb it down of course! Don't get me wrong, Martyrs is a fantastic looking film with a really strong score to boot, but the decision to remove almost all of the violence from the plot really defeats the object and significantly changes the tone of the film.

Random changes to other elements of the plot seem to have been made simply to differentiate from the original and the spectacular flaying sequence from the original is replaced with a simple crucifixion (which didn't even involve piercing of the hands and feet). If the entire premise of the film is that Martyrs are created through a process of intense suffering then we need to see that suffering (as in the original) otherwise the transcendence (or in this case double transcendence) is not believable and makes no sense.

There is probably a good reason that no other French new wave films have been remade. A. Not many directors would have the balls to do it and B. most directors understand that these films have a uniquely French blend of extreme violence and sophisticated, cerebral ideas that would simply not translate into an American setting. This isn't a terrible remake, but rather, falls into the vast and expansive category of pointless remakes that offer nothing new nor enhance enjoyment of the original film.

** 2 Stars

What did you think of the remake? Is the extreme violence vital to the plot?


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