Martyrs is a tough film to watch, and some might have an immediate knee jerk reaction against it complaining about the horror and violence, but to that I say watch the film and look further than that, and to be honest it's not that hard to see the depth and the meaning within Martyrs. Sure you might find it horrifying and uncomfortable, but that's for a reason, there's a strong story behind it too.
They become exceedingly close but despite the bond and her opening up to her new found friend, she still carries the scars of the event, and begins to receive visitations from a strange creature intent on destroying her.
However she believes that if she can find the people who perpetrated the terrible crimes against her she might find some peace from the events happening to her, and she enlists the help of her friend to track them down.
Before you think that I might have given a lot away in the film, believe me when I say that this isn’t even the first half hour of the plot, in fact this is a lot less than that, and there’s much more to come.
The first thing I have to say about Martyrs is that the hyped horror and brutality isn’t the true reflection of the film. There’s a strong story and characters behind it, and the horror factor is far from some other films we’ve seen these past few years. There is a strong sense of realistic horror and brutality though, and that’s perhaps where the true impact of the horror comes from, like Hellraiser it’s the realistic and detached approach to some of the more horrific moments that provides the ultimate power of the film.
Saying that though I wasn’t as horrified as much as people had suggested I would be, in fact the truly gory moments weren't as much as I expected and it was the intensity and the more terrifying scenes which proved the more upsetting.
These scenes really began with the shootings early on in the film and the realism with which they are shown, the shots and pictures of people near death, the early scene of the younger girl being beaten and mentally abused, and above all the scenes of physical violence against the women, were the upsetting moments of the film and a couple had me flinching in my seat.
Now that list sounds shocking when you read it, but you have to realise that in the context of the film and in relation to the story itself it's not as terrible as you might think and everything is very relevant to the story. This isn’t a deliberately upsetting and terrifying slasher film packed with gore.
Martyrs reveals itself as one of those films that turns out to be something you hadn’t fully expected, and provides a number of different layers to the film, changing direction a number of times in ways you really hadn’t anticipated at all, and that provided for a great deal of enjoyment as the story turned and twisted.
The film begins as a traditional horror, bringing in the brutally realistic horror and psychological aspects quite early on. Then something different happens, first there are some excellent creature effects brought in to twist the story, and on a number of occasions the story you thought you were going to see ends and the film takes on a very different direction. This happens three or four times in the film, with the story refocusing and turning in an expected direction.
I can’t really write too much about how the film does this or why because I don’t want to ruin the way the story unfolds and the feelings I had while watching it for myself, and really it’s amazing that so many people have seen it, recommended and reviewed it, without actually giving too much of the true extent of the film away, that is indeed showing a strong sign of respect for the film.
The effects are very good too, although the final view of how the woman ends up doesn’t feel as well done as some of the scenes from the original Hellraiser film with which they are undoubtedly comparable, and in the earlier scenes the effects do rate much better.
Directing wise the film is strong, concentrating on smaller locations and on some cleverly plotted out moments and story developments. It works well and never feels like a small horror film, feeling more like a bigger budget psychological film with a much larger scope.
The actors aren't big stars and it seemed, if you watch the extras themselves, that they had to learn a lot on set during the filming, and it’s testament to the script and the director that they worked so well and delivered powerful and emotional performances.
Dolby Digital 5.1
The audio was good and although it didn't stretch or overpower the speakers it did make use of movement and the rears, to be honest I was pulled in by the story that I forgot about the audio, however it could have done with a little more work on the movement and bringing the audience in more.
A good picture that did well through the darks and action, some close up scenes provided a good level of detail even though it was on DVD and there was a slight grain to the picture at times it did feel a stylistic choice and didn’t detriment the picture and the viewing experience.
The Making of, Interview with Pascal Laugier, Interview with Benoît Lestang
The Making of
This is a stunning making of that covers one hour twenty-five minutes worth of material, this really does take you behinds the scenes of the film. It isn't just a random collection of scenes either and does a great job at isolating moments of the film and showing them being built up and rehearsed to the final shot.
It carries with it some very interesting reveals about the production, for example the relationship between the actors and director which became a little strained at times.
You can actually see how the actresses received their instructions on set and how the director works with them through some more difficult scenes for them and the film.
An excellent and indepth making of that really does take you behind the scenes and shows you the evolution of certain sequences.
Interview with Pascal Laugier
This provides an interesting insight into what the director thought of the film, how he made many of the choices during production and on set, and also provides an interesting reveal of French cinema and their view towards horror as well as his own views of western horror.
Interview with Benoît Lestang
This interview gives an insight into the the work of the effects team on the film and gives us a look through some of Lestang's work as well as his views on special effects in modern cinema. His choice of best effects might be a little surprising, even if it's a good one.
Martyrs is a clever horror film, not just psychological either and it has a lot of clever nuances behind it which keep on delivering to the very end of the story. It does also raise a lot of interesting ideas and questions about the final story, gripping me to it through the changes and the various stages of revelation.
Martyrs shouldn’t be thought of as just a horror or a psychological horror, or just anything, there’s a lot more to the story of Martyrs than first meets the eye, and it’s well worth exploring the film, especially on this DVD offering with the excellent making of. However it is a shame that the DVD doesn't come with an audio commentary, even with the huge featurette.