Ten-year-old Lucie flees from the isolated warehouse where she has been held prisoner. Deeply traumatized, she is plagued by awful night terrors at the orphanage that takes her in. Her only comfort comes from Anna, a girl her own age. Nearly a decade later and still haunted by demons, Lucie finally tracks down the family that tortured her. As she and Anna move closer to the agonizing truth, they find themselves trapped in a nightmare if they cannot escape, a martyr's fate awaits them...
MARTYRS opens up with a young girl escaping an old warehouse, where she has seemingly been held captive for years. From there, Lucie spends years growing up in a Catholic orphanage called St. Mary's. Despite still being very much traumatized by her ordeal, and being haunted by an unseen demon, she finds comfort in another girl at the orphanage, Anna, whom is the same age. The film then progresses to 10 years later, in which we see Lucie track down, and subsequently kill her two captors; a Doctor, his wife, as well as their 2 children. After the act, Lucie calls upon Anna for help, however, when Lucie's demon emerges, it prolongs their stay. And unfortunately, it's just enough time to somehow alert the Elenor and a group of followers, who are all a part of a rather strange religious group. As it turns out, the organization are the ones responsible for Lucie's previous capture. Eleanor goes on to explain that the group's goal is to experience the afterlife, and they do so by finding "Martyrs". They are people, whom they believe have the gift to endure pain, for their spiritual desires. And so a lot of torture has been dished out by them over the years to find "the one". And they believe Lucie to be the one with the gift of seeing past mortal life. When Anna, who's loyal to her friend refuses to cooperate, she too endures the same torture. But it is soon, when she nearly escapes that she must fight back, in order to save Lucie before Lucie becomes the organization's true Martyr.
It should be said first that I have not seen the original 2008 French film, written and directed by Pascal Laugier that this film is a remake/re-imagining of. So, with that said, I cannot really compare the 2 films. But I do know that the original has been heralded as "effective" and that it has garnered almost cult status since it's release nearly 8 years ago. So, with that is mind, I went into this film with an open mind, and with nothing to compare it to, I gave it a chance. Unfortunately, however, it appears that the film didn't have much of one to begin with.
The film gets off to a rather strong, interesting start, I must admit that I was into it pretty much. I even liked the whole idea of the demon, that no one else can see, haunting the main character, "Lucie". But unfortunately, the film's grip slips further and further away as it progresses, falling into the trap of being the most routine of torture films. After Lucie mercilessly kills the family of her captors, the Pattersons, and is tortured by her inner-demon (literally), the arrival of Eleanor and her secret "organization" turns 2015's Martyrs into the most typical of torture fests - and a tame one at best. Even if you have not seen the original(as I haven't) it is clear to see that every once of dept that the original seems to have had has been drained here. Also dulled down here, is the violence itself. It seems as though the writers for this re-imagining were so concerned with staying within set boundaries that everything here has been rendered safe. Where is the concern? Where is the emotion? This film is pretty much, by the numbers, safe. For someone who has never seen the original film, I was hoping for a little explanation of what the organization were on about. Just why do they torture people? As it turns out, it's not for their own entertainment, but for a purpose. A spiritual purpose. They are looking for people, who are "gifted" with the pain threshold, that would allow them to see past the in between - to have a glimpse of the afterlife, after they are brought close to death. Or at least I think that is what they're after. In the film, the script calls for the "Eleanor" character to explain this to "Anna" - and to us. But it is such in a rushed manner, that it is at first difficult to grasp and take in, thus removing the viewer even more from the proceedings. The film's ultimate goal seems to want us the viewer to connect with the film's 2 main characters both emotionally and visually, but unfortunately, neither of those 2 things happen.
Not that the performances are bad. I am actually a big fan of Troian Bellisario(of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS), she's a great actress, and here, she does her best to create a compelling character with Lucie. And as with the film, initially, it somewhat works. But as the film continues fast, the viewer loses interest in not only the film's story, but also it's characters as well. The effectiveness just goes down hill as the film progresses. The same can be said for Bailey Noble as "Anna". I too liked her. Her performance was ok, with the character becoming more interesting near the end. Out of the two of them, the Anna character is slightly more interesting, but that is only because she is involved in more of the film's action sequences, not necessarily because of emotional connectivity.
To sum up my experience of seeing this "re-imagining", I would have to say that it is pretty underwhelming. It's like cutting a steak with a butter knife. Not that effective. Yes, while I have not seen the original film, I can tell that the idea is there, but while stripping away the supposed grit of the original, in it's place is bunch of blandness, as something that shouldn't be so predictable, truly is.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
As I said above, going into this remake(or whatever they are calling it), I hadn't seen the original, so I had little to go on. I just knew that the original seems to be well liked among Horror fans. So with that said, I judge the film on it's own. Unfortunately, on its own, it is a film with very little depth or detail, as it has a lack of attention. As it is made for the "American" crowd, the mentality is that everything should move along fast before it loses the audience's attention. Because of this, the film breezes by details and build up, in favor of being "straight to the point" with things. The end result is a dry, and meaningless tale, that is far too tame for its subject matter.
This film is available in digital HD now, and will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD on February 2, 2016