Last Dance with the Horror

As the last and final selection for the horror film course, I felt that this Martyrs (2008) was quite drastic and shocking. It was quite a loud and horrific was to end the semester, and I felt quite disturbed as I watched the events unfold throughout the film. Unfortunately, I had to watch this movie alone since I was abroad during the filming in class. I describe it as unfortunate merely because it was quite unpleasant to watch as it is, which was harder to keep focused for me since first I had the option to pause, and second I didn’t really have someone to share my fear reactions with.

All the scenes of torture made me feel so uneasy, and it made finishing the movie difficult to achieve as the theme was so unsettling for me personally. The way that Pascal Laguier presented the concept and scenes were successful in making the audience feel discomfort. The title of the film threw me away, because I didn’t initially read the synopsis before watching it, and I didn’t expect to see what I ended up watching throughout this French-Canadian horror drama. I do understand though the appeal that this kind of movie might have on certain people, especially those who appreciate this form of sub genre to the horror.

In Linda William’s text, “Learning to scream”, she brings up a topic on the “perverse pleasures of cinema”, which I think can actually indeed apply to this film. The vividness of her example “Psycho” was a similar effect as to how vivid this film was, and how it could haunt anyone from the audience after watching the entirety of the film (or even just a small glimpse of the torture scenes). Her line about horror fanatics or viewers of the genre rather getting that sense of thrill in a “rollercoaster sensibility of repeated tension and release, assault and escape” is something that depicts what “Martyrs” feeds the audience. The female victims, gave you a sense of urge to want to help them and relieve their pain whilst also being helpless in the process since you’re limited to being just a viewer of the horror piece of art.

Williams brings in Carol J. Clover’s concept of abject fear being “gendered female” coming from her “Men, Women and Chain Saws”. More often than not, just like in this film, it is effective to place a female as the object of the victim who is experience all types of personal horror. Watching the said gender being terrified becomes more effective is you would compare that the victims of this particular movie were to be males. “The terrified female victim is a cliché of horror cinema: both the display of sexual arousal and the display of fear are coded as quintessentially feminine”, Williams says. This is fact represented and verified as you watch the female characters play roles of victims to the torture that takes place in certain scenes in the film.

To end this course, Martyrs was definitely a way to finish with a “bang”. The scenes that were drastic were ones that I feel will stick to me; making this choice one that I probably wont forget from this horror film class. Much has evolved under the horror genre since this version of the film was made, and after this I look forward to trying out the remake 2015 version that stars an actress that I’ve grown to like due to her other thriller drama, Freeform series called Pretty Little Liars. From there, I think that I can make the proper and adequate comparisons as to the vision and the cultural difference that has been taken into consideration with the newer version of this intense horror drama.



Linda Williams, “Learning to Scream”


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