Sanitised remake of the controversial French horror, from Kevin and Michael Goetz
In 2008 French filmmaker Pascal Laugier screened his hyper-violent horror, Martyrs, at Cannes to divisive reviews. There were walkouts, reports of people vomiting and it became the stuff of legend. Filed under part of the New French Extremity movement, alongside such films as Baise-moi, In My Skin and Frontier(s), it certainly earned its stripes in its depiction of intense pain – with graphic images of a woman being tortured to within an inch of her life.
Laugier has staunchly defended his work as an illustration of his despair at the modern world, exploring the meaning of human suffering. If its brutal nature was almost an endurance test then this unnecessary and sanitised American reimagining is something of an ordeal to sit through too, however, that’s mainly because it’s ineptly directed and entirely misses the point of what Laugier was trying to achieve.
Kevin and Michael Goetz’s remake, scripted by Mark L Smith, begins in a similar fashion to the original – as a young girl named Lucie (played initially by Ever Prishkulnik, later by Troian Bellisario) escapes from a horrible place and bides her time until she can locate and enact vengeance on those that have hurt her. But Smith’s screenplay takes a detour in the form of a friendship forged between two girls at a care home, and the emphasis of the film remains on their deepening bond into adult life and through a traumatic experience.
This narrative change is certainly appealing but the establishing of their relationship is so flimsily written and corny that it’s difficult to care about the plight of characters who spend most of their time screaming. From the very start, Martyrs is missing that vital, visceral element that the original possessed, so it never really places you in Lucie’s unenviable position – particularly strange when you consider that Smith is the co-writer of the masterfully gruelling The Revenant.
DVD, VOD and Digital HD release from Mon 4 Apr.