Martyrs…..wow. What a thrilling ride this movie was. I’ve watched a couple of European horror films before such as Serbian Film and Rec, which still remain as one of the most disturbing things I’ve watched. Which is why from the very moment I realized Martyrs was a French movie, I knew it was going to be disturbing as hell. But man, I didn’t expect it to take the top spot in my list of “Scariest, most f#cked up sh!t I’ve seen”so easily.
What really amazes me about the film is that the movie is basically split into two horror movies. The first part focusing on Lucie’s story of revenge. As soon as the movie begins, we learn of the horrific backstory of Lucie who was tortured for God knows how long as a kid. Here we see glimpses of her trauma being manifested through a creature that physically attacks her. Flash forward to the future, Lucie straight up enters the screen murdering an innocent looking family with a double barrelled shotgun. Immediately, it caught everyone in the audience off-guard and kept us sitting at the edge of our seats from then on. The movie for the most part tried to convince us that Lucie was indeed mentally insane and has just murdered innocent people. Lucie being forced to murder people by her not so friendly “imaginary friend.” We learn that this monster was actually the manifestation of guilt Lucie felt by leaving a girl behind to be tortured, explaining why Lucie was the only one able to see it. It was telling her to seek revenge and murder the ones who were responsible for their torture.
Up to this part everything was already horrifying as hell. The monster haunting Lucie was one of the scariest things I have ever seen on screen. It was fast, brutal, and in a way unbeatable because it was actually all just in Lucie’s head. You can’t kill something that does not exist. I would honestly have been satisfied if the movie had already ended there. It would have been short yeah but Lucie ending her own life because she just murdered an innocent family would have left me already satisfied. However, the best or in this case, the worst was yet to come. Anna stumbles across a hidden passage leading to a secret high tech basement. I even caught myself muttering the words “Damn its only been 1 hour. What the hell could happen next?” It turns out Lucie was correct!!! The family really was the one who tortured her. At this point I found myself feeling just as guilty as Anna for ever doubting Lucie who just slit her throat thinking we didn’t believe her. Eventually Anna will end up getting caught, setting up the next portion of the film.
If the first part was non-stop suspense action horror, the following would be a slow and painful sequence of torture scenes and immense suffering. Apparantley, Lucie’s captors were part of a cult that believed in the concept of Martyrs. Martyrs are people, not necessarily religious figures, that experience a glimpse of the afterlife while still living. This caused the cult to be fixated in making their own Martyr because if they manage to be successful, they will be able to know the answer to one of the biggest questions in the world: “What is the afterlife like?” They do this by torturing people to the brink of death until they reach the state of martyrdom. Anna, being the perfect candidate for martyrdom (young women), finally achieves transcendence in the end.
One of the biggest questions after watching the film were “Why did Mademoiselle kill herself in the end? What did Anna tell her to make such a drastic move?” Based on the last words Mademoiselle left us: continue doubting, I could only make 2 conclusions. 1. The truth was too intense for anyone to handle and Mademoiselle thought the world wasn’t ready to know the truth thus killing herself with the truth. 2. Anna tells Mademoiselle that there really is no afterlife. If we consider the first to be the case then it would mean that the afterlife is something that we as living beings should not meddle with or try to even understand. It is something totally beyond our comprehension. If the second where true, everything Mademoiselle and the cult has done would have all been in vain. Finding out that there was no real afterlife caused her to feel immense guilt for all the torture and suffering she had produced making her kill herself. It could also mean that by finding out that there is no afterlife, she found no more reason for living because what would be the point if all things that happen in the real world are meaningless in the end. I would like to think however that Anna really did tell Mademoiselle that there was no afterlife. But I would also like to think that Anna tricks her into believing that this is the real truth. As a final move of revenge. As a way of fighting back her oppressors, the ones responsible for her suffering, the ones responsible for the death of her beloved Lucie. Besides, it would be boring to think that all the effort in making the CG effects of transcendence was all for nothing. It has to mean something and I believe Anna knew it but decided to keep it for herself and Lucie.
Martyrs was not only a beautifully disgusting horror movie but a movie that made me think about the meaning of life. How many movies, even moreso a horror movie, can you mention that made you think about the meaning of life or the existence of the afterlife? There is no argument that the first part of the film contained one of the most horrifying scenes I’ve ever seen in a horror film. While the second part, made me feel disgusted but at the same time curious and philosophical. It’s a weird mix but it made the film, for me, an experience unlike any other. Would I recommend it to other people however??? That is a difficult question. As much as I would want to say yes, I would have to say that it would really depend on the type of person I would recommend it to. Martyrs is a movie that could make a hardcore horror veteran squeal like a little girl and look away in disgust at some points. But all of it was done to great effect that I wouldn’t really consider the movie as just nonsensical violence or even torture-porn. There was meaning and purpose placed into everything done in the film. In the end, it became not only the scariest and disturbing films I’ve ever witnessed but also one of the most thought provoking.