Torture Porn or Genius?

Before anything else, let me say this: what a way to end the semester. Martyrs (2008) is by far, the most gruesome, eye-catching, gory, and terrifying movie we have watched so far in class. This movie already set the tone three minutes in, as the look of the monster is something I definitely will never forget. It sent chills down my spine; this was a recurring feeling I had throughout the entire movie. I was so reviled all throughout, I can’t even put it into words. Let’s just say that this movie is definitely not for the faint of heart. I could safely say that everyone that watched and got through that entire thing is a hero.

If there’s something I could not handle in gory movies, it has to be the sight of open wounds. In any movie that I have ever seen in my entire life, I have never seen so many open wounds. This is also the first time I felt nauseous watching a film. Whether it be the stitching of open cuts, the self-cutting itself, or the cutting by others, it was definitely not a sight to behold. My mouth was open the entire time, and I have also never screamed this much in a movie my entire life, be it from straight-up terror, or disgust. There were countless times throughout the movie where its main characters, ____ and _____, were basically put through these unbelievable sequences.

Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi), the film’s main subject, throughout many times in the movie, was eventually seen slicing herself open with an office-quality cutter, many times. I would have been okay if it had only been a couple of times, but no – not only did she do this multiple times, but she ended up ending herself with a slice to the throat. This was another look I will not forget.

Anna (Morjana Alaoui), Lucie’s close friend growing up, was a caring figure, who was one of Lucie’s constant presences in life. I did not think she would eventually go through such an ordeal, being put through almost the same amount of torture as Lucie, but ultimately flayed alive for crazy people to see what kind of transfiguration people who are martyrs go through. Honestly, I could not even believe I types down that sentence, as who in their right mind would be okay to skin an adolescent girl alive? It’s outright disgusting, and revolting.

Relating this to Linda Williams’ article entitled “Learning to Scream,” there are just some movies that leave a lasting impact on you. She mentioned the film, Psycho, wherein people had difficulty taking showers at night after witnessing the gruesome murder scene. There is one thing that she mentions that completely encapsulates my feelings about Martyrs, and that is, “Anyone… cannot help but notice how entrenched this rollercoaster sensibility of repeated tension and release, assault, and escape has become.” The effect Psycho had on its viewers is similar to the effect Martyrs has given me. It has made me not only made my fear of sharp objects and open wounds even more, but even on horror films in general. I don’t know if I could ever watch a horror film – or even one that deals with war and gore – without imagining the kind of treatment Anna had. Similar to the Psycho, the number of times I screamed and reacted violently was unparalleled to any other horror film I have ever seen.

Another theme mentioned in the article was how, “The terrified female victim is a cliché on horror cinema…” This is also a recurring issue in almost all the movies we have watched so far in class. Women always seem to be the poor, defense-less victims of horror films. At the same time, men seem so powerful, cool, calm, and collected. We see Anna, during the times she is already taken in for testing, being beaten and battered by a guy who did not give one damn that he was beating up a little girl. He ends up cutting her up alive, without any remorse, even. Given this result, something I have been wondering about is if females who view movies such as Martyrs can handle it. As seen by this whole essay, I am obviously revolted by the movie, as a whole. What then, about women?

According to Brigid Cherry’s article, which talks precisely about this issue of female viewers in horror films, only a couple of women “…expressed delight in the more violent forms of horror, but women who claimed to enjoy the visceral thrills of watching violence were a small minority.” Later on in the study, it mentioned how females always seem to identify with the heroine, which is basically the probable cause of this revulsion. I could not imagine how women must have felt watching such a film like that, where a woman, who meant no harm at all, was treated. She was hurt repeatedly, and eventually became the mere subject of an experiment.

At this point of my essay, I still could not believe what I had just watched. It was quite a wild ride viewing such a film. Although it was difficult, I enjoyed how the film had a thought-provoking and sensitive topic at-hand. As much as I did not like it, I will miss having to view unconventional, foreign films such as these as I go on and continue to watch horror films.

Sources:

Linda Williams, “Learning to Scream.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).

Brigid Cherry, “Refusing to refuse to look: Female viewers of the horror film.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).

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