Review: SHOCK Crucifies the MARTYRS Remake

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SHOCK weighs in on the Blumhouse remake of classic French shocker MARTYRS.

I must preface this review by saying that I have not seen the original French MARTYRS. Travesty, I know. But it allows me a unique opportunity to review the 2015 remake without being influenced by the original. Basically, I can judge it just as a movie, not as a remake. 

MARTYRS tells the story of Lucie, a young girl who escapes from a warehouse where she has been tortured for an untold amount of time. The cops have no clues and Lucie is sent to a Catholic orphanage, where she is befriended by Anna, an impossibly cheerful girl who stops at nothing to befriend Lucie. 

The girls grow up, and we next see Lucie as she is brutally murdering a seemingly-perfect family family who lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere. She calls Anna, saying she found the monsters who held her captive. Anna can’t believe that Lucie actually killed them, and she has her doubts that these people actually abused Lucie. In fact, she even attempts to call 911, but chickens out after two rings. Anna gives in and helps Lucie clean up the mess, and in doing so discovers a well-hidden tunnel that leads to a massive underground prison, complete with graphic photographs of tortured girls. Anna finds a young girl, Sam, in one of the cells. She tries to help the girl escape, but instead they are set upon by a flock of men who chase the three girls through the woods before catching them and locking all three up downstairs. The torture begins anew, and Anna finally learns the diabolical plot this cabal is involved in.

I did not like MARTYRS.

Maybe it is because I don’t have a religious background, but I didn’t “get” MARTYRS. Since the original has been out for a handful of years, I don’t feel like it is a spoiler to say that the basic idea of MARTYRS is to torture human beings to the brink of death in order to see god or an afterlife. I believe in neither, so to me this seems a huge waste of time and totally illogical. Wouldn’t everyone “see” something different? These religious nuts – of which there are a lot, apparently – are led by a stern woman who seems much more like a businesswoman than a zealot. Other than when she is trying to describe the goal of her group (which she does in a vague way, making me think the screenwriter chickened out of getting too directly religious with it), there is no religious fervor; no bible quotes; no incurring the wrath of god.

Putting aside the religious logic – or lack thereof – there were plenty of other problems with the film. I felt no emotional pull to Lucie or Anna. I thought the friendship between them as children was sweet, but as adults, where we spend the bulk of our time with them, I felt nothing. They are not developed as adult characters. We first see Lucie when she is killing her tormentor; we first see Anna when Lucie calls her for help. There is no sense of where these girls are in their lives. Do they have jobs? Do they have significant others or roommates? Are they happy? They become very two-dimensional: Lucie focused on revenge and banishing the monsters from her head; Anna focused on helping her friend. 

Lucie also seemed to think that no one “believed” her. I don’t know if she was referring to the “monsters” she sees, or to the actual abuse. The abuse seems pretty indisputable; the monsters she sees are clearly in her head, a result of the lack of any sort of counseling. The “monsters” she sees disappear from the plot pretty quickly, making me wonder what the point was to begin with.

I’m not sure who this film is made for. If you liked the original, watch that again. If you didn’t like the original, you probably aren’t going to want to watch the remake. I don’t see this getting a major theatrical release, so it isn’t likely that dumb teenagers are going to wander into a new horror film and fall in love with it. Even if they did, I think it is too esoteric and tries to be too “deep” for a mindless horror fan.