Objectification and “othering” of women is commonly seen in horror films. Horror films feed on the idea of a female being a monster or a victim. As a monster, it makes the movie more horrific because although male monsters can be horrifying, having a female monster makes it even more terrifying. As a victim, the feeling of entrapment in horror films is amplified because female leads in horror films are portrayed as weak and helpless but eventually, throughout the movie they transform from feminine to masculine in a sense that they are able to gain strength to fight against the monster.
Furthermore, the concept of “othering” or defining the “other” is said to be dangerous as said by Robin Wood in which I agree because monsters and villains are made because of this which is seen in every movie we have watched in class. In the movie Martyrs, the objectification and “othering” of women is evidently shown seeing as the movie starts out with a girl escaping from what seems a torture warehouse and brought to a home of abused children.
The “othering” happens when she becomes an outcast herself due to the trauma because of what was did to her in the warehouse. Later on in the movie, we see that this objectification and torture affects her psychologically because she seems to be haunted by a strange woman monster figure and this figure seems to be causing her to do things against her will. Fast forward into the future, we are shown that she still holds a grudge against her torturers and hunts them down and kills their whole family. At first, I thought that maybe she got it wrong and it was the voice that was controlling her and tricks her into thinking that this was the woman who tortured her because the family seemed normal. I speculated that is was going to be similar to a slasher film but instead of individuals getting killed of one by one, it was a whole family.
This reveals to us why she was being followed by a woman monster figure, it was out of guilt because she couldn’t save her knowing that she was going through the same torture as her at that time. Another revelation is that what the monster seems to be doing to her is psychological and she does it to herself.
The movie was extremely hard to watch because of the gruesomeness and brutality of the whole film. I remember being confused watching the trailer because it was basically bloodshed although the mystery of why they were tortured in the first place encouraged me to finish the film. The scene that was absolutely difficult to watch is when the process of torture is shown repeatedly, the movie shows us the routine of torture that was did to the females in the basement.
The scenes of torture show females as victims because as said in the movie, they torture females mostly because they were more susceptible to the result their society wanted. The secret society repressed and objectified several females for seventeen years and the process of torture they do is inhumane. Personally, they couldn’t even be treated as prisoners because what they did to these females made them less human and even worse, eventually they wouldn’t even consider themselves human and would rather kill themselves as seen through the “prisoner” Anna rescued.
The movie also shows us the curiosity of humans and how like horror film viewers, they are attracted to anomalies and crave disclosure for these anomalies. Given the example of Martyrs, they are fascinated and curious with the afterlife and what they should expect from the afterlife. This curiosity was heightened to the point that the secret society has already dedicated 17 years of their life for this.
Here we see how humans themselves can become monsters. We see the secret society as monsters because through their eagerness and impatience of knowing what is in the afterlife, they were willing to experiment on females, torture them for a long time just to get a glimpse of the afterlife.
The most irritating part of the movie is when Anna reaches the final stage as is able to whisper to the leader of the society what she has seen in the last stage. They call in the members of the society to declare what is in the afterlife. When Mademoiselle is called to go down, she tells the man to keep doubting about the afterlife and kills herself which I think is very selfish of her and it makes her more of a monster.
On the other hand, this action of hers made me question: Did she kill herself because she liked what she was getting in the afterlife? Did she kill herself because she finally knew how stupid the whole operation is and wasted her life and is ashamed? Did she kill herself on the sole reason of being selfish, wanting to keep what she heard from Anna to herself?
Andrew Tudor, “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002)
Noël Carroll. “Why horror?” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002)
Robin Wood, ‘The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s’, from Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan (New York, Columbia University Press, 1986)
Mark Jancovich. “General Introduction.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002)
Sleight, Graham. “Storying Genres.” Vector Magazine, n.d.
Barbara Creed, “Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002)