Having watched 10 mix of wonderful and awful horror films, I have grew an appreciation for the genre. My initial thought upon enrolling in the class is to sit around and do nothing. However, my eyes were opened when it dawned to me that horror tackles issues that are relevant to society. It does that because it is able to do so. From Deadgirl to Evil Dead, we see different issues that were tackled.
Martyrs is a French-Canadian horror film directed by Pascal Laugier released in the year 2008. The film is about the search for transcendence using any resource and method possible. Torture is effectively depicted in it, even raising the argument that it is in fact torture porn.
Even from the opening scene of the film, Martyrs was no doubt a horror film. It starts off with a child scared of a monster which still haunts her till this present day. Lucie at present day kills a family because of her dilusional state. It was later revealed that Lucie was abused by an organization hell bent on trying to find what is there after life. She was tortured in the hopes that she transcends into life after death. Along with Anna, Lucie’s confidant, they try to hide from the entity that attacks Lucie from time to time. Before ultimately killing herself, Lucie is seen struggling against the monster on her point of view. However, Anna sees otherwise as she only sees Lucie attacking herself.
Reeling from the lost of Lucie, Anna was caught in the house by the very same organization that tortured her friend. She speaks with Mademoiselle about the aim of the organization. She was told that its ultimate goal is to achieve transcendence. Now, Anna was put under the same torture as all the girls before her. It was said that Anna was the only girl that was able to advance into the “final stage”. And when she reached transcendence, Mademoiselle eagerly arrives and listens to what she has to say. However, when Mademoiselle was about to speak of what she heard, she kills herself and commands her followers to keep doubting.
In the film, we see depiction of torture numerous times. When the film initially went out, it was categorized as torture porn. The term coined around the release of Hostel and consequently thrown around for movies that feature gruesome torture. The term implies that the movie that would appeal to the sadistic desires of a person. The term caught on and critics began slapping it on any film that had any torture in it such as the film Saw. It is easy to categorize the film as a torture porn however, it transcends that. Underneath all the horrible things that happened, the plot reveals a strong message. Despite being stripped of her identity, Anna in the end was the one in power. She could easily said anything and the organization would’ve believed it.
In Linda William’s article, she mentions that “The terrified female victim is a cliché on horror cinema.” Evidently, we see that in the movies previously watched in class. However, not all the movies presented depicted girls as victims. Most of the films watched in class send out a strong feministic message that girls can handle themselves. Martyrs led us to believe that Anna was hopeless in her state of torture. Though, I beg to differ. I inferred my observation from the subsequent reaction of Mademoiselle following her encounter with Anna. What would have caused her to commit suicide? Was there nothing after we die? Ultimately, the message it sends the viewer is Anna was still in control.
To conclude, Martyrs is definitely a gut wrenching film that sends your appetite in the trash. It delivers in its promise to spread horror into its audience. The scene I particularly liked was when Anna was tortured and no dialogue was spoken. The film was able to speak through its actions and not words. Soon after Anna accepted her fate, she was silent. Most of the time, we try to understand words like in Pontypool however, silence delivers an equal, if not more powerful message. Lastly, the film was something I was able to appreciate due to the weeks of building my sensibility of the horror genre. I would have not appreciated it, if the movie was shown on an earlier week. As a whole, the course seems to use the genre to speak of something bigger than itself that is more often overlooked in movies of the other genre.