I thought that Dead Girl was cringe-worthy up until I saw Martyrs.
For the most part of the movie, I felt so lost. It seemed at first, like one of those movies about exorcisms. Then it felt as if a retribution story. And finally, it seemed philosophical to an extent with its finale.
It was such a long struggle to understand just what the monster was in the movie. It had me thinking that it was some sort of invisible entity that would be visible only to a few, just like in It Follows. As we later find out, it is but a conditioned monster imbedded in the minds of those experimented upon by a cult of old men and women, in search for what the other side of life would have in store for them.
The torture scenes from the film felt so unbearable for me. Just the thought of something like this being done in some part of the world made my stomach turn. The more I wanted the violence and gore in the film to stop, the more it fed me with nightmares to remember.
As with the concept of the damsel-in-distress, we find ourselves pitying Anna and the other torture victims in the film. Each passing day shown in the film felt more and more excruciating for the audience. Despite the horror we feel however, there is still this nagging feeling of what all of the torture is for. And we are introduced to the secret society who intends only to find out what comes after life of martyrdom, while lambasting the dignity of these young girls. We find that true martyrdom is found in Anna who willingly risks her life to save her troubled friend from the monsters in her head. This blows over into a full-on torture cycle that almost kills her, but not before she achieves “enlightenment.”
Repeatedly, her troubled friend is shown to be motivating Anna to just let go of her resistance to pain in order to find her peace. Having been murdered by her captors, she only wanted Anna to experience the least amount of pain as possible even in the afterlife.
In the scene where the old lady finds out what’s in store for her in the afterlife, we see that she is readying herself for the proclamation of what it is that Anna had told her. What we did not expect was for the old lady to take her own life. I think that this was such a good move for a last scene because it leaves the audience wanting to know what exactly Anna had told her. Whether it was a trick for the old woman to kill herself or whether it was that enticing to want to keep it to herself even at the cost of her life.
The film makes the audience curious about the “secret” but is the viewer ready to face the tortuous cycle that this comes with? Of course not. That’s exactly why we have the horror film. We want to entertain our darkest curiosities without having to risk anything of ourselves.