Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Film Review: Martyrs

"Martyrs" is the latest uber-horror-gore film from France, which means it MUST be awesome, no? The critics are drooling and twittering over this, so I had to check it out; for a first at Grim Horror, I had a viewing partner in crime, Dave Depraved of Grindhouse Releasing. We soaked up every drop on Dave's dad's 8000 inch hi-def screen and it wasn't pretty.

It starts out ok, where we see (in that typically modern torture porn hazy color-saturated quick jump pov flashback style) that some little French girl has been unimaginably tortured (but not sexually, as if that makes it all the more incomprehensible and hideous) in some Eli Roth inspired factory of dripping horror. She escapes, and becomes bff with another girl at the orphanage, and we are given the prerequisite flashbacks and whatnot. Cut to 15 years later and a seemingly normal family is having breakfast in the French countryside. Enter the abused girl, grown up all Rambo style, and she blows away Ma, Pa, and the two kids with a shotgun in nouveau horror broootal fashion. Apparently the farmers were the original torturers. But all is not as it seems of course. Her friend comes to the house for the cleanup and they are beset upon by some ambiguous attic-dwelling creature out of my beloved horror hack Richard Laymon's "The Cellar". The cinematography is all dark and whatnot like most horror movies these days and we're not sure if the mutant beast is in her mind or is another torture victim in the house, but it doesn't really matter; things eventually come to a point where the original torture girl kills herself (we don't really know why, but this is France, right?) and the friend becomes a pawn in the game of the evil torture freaks. This is where I completely lost touch with all seriousness as Dave and I turned the movie into an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 meets Philosophy 101

It seems this farmhouse is like torture central, a veritable museum of torture, with underground deprivation chambers, goth-inspired torture wear, and ersatz Einsatzgruppen shock troopers. Then there's "Mademoisselle", who looks like Pink Floyd The Wall's Mother as channelled by Devine, who spouts off Clive Barkeresque ponderisms about the importance of pleasure and pain, and transcendence through suffering. The screenwriters have obviously read the Cliff Notes for Nietzsche and seen lots of Marilyn Manson videos so they know what they're talking about. The final third of the movie is the girl friend ascending to martyrdom through ultimate suffering, until she finally reveals the secret of the universe. It's very brutal, very philosophical, very bloody, very French, and very boring. THESE FILMMAKERS HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SAY!!

I liked "Inside" alot, and I even liked "Haute Tension" (despite the "twist" ending). They were intense movies like a roller coaster of doom; no message to impart to the viewer, just sheer horror on a very small scale. "Martyrs" brings in a whole subcultutre of pretentious decadence that just falls flat. Everybody's jaded, and the clique we see at the end of this movie is the same as the Italians in "Salo" and the businessmen in "Hostel". Totally empty. oo)))


John said...

I just got done watching this movie. It was pretty decent, though the plotline started lose me with all the philosophy. I felt there was some real emotion put into the characters though, which elevated it above the Roth and Saw type shit. However, it turned out to be one of those movies that seems as though it set out to make you feel stupid if you don't get what the whole point was at the end. The entire last third or so of the film (after she gets captured and all) really slows the film down to a crawl, and the old woman's vague explanation for the torture wasn't enough for me to stop being annoyed that movie I'd been watching and started to invest myself in was essentially over. I get the impression that it's intended to be a film you're supposed to understand more and more each time you watch it, and I might turn it on again sometime, but the story didn't perplex me enough to think it warrants repeated viewings to unearth a supposed deeper meaning. Isn't that what a Darren Aronofsky film is supposed to be for? Definitely delving into pretentious territory.

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