martrys_1Welcome to Reel Rewind, a semi-monthly column in which I’ll revisit some of our favorite/overlooked films, bringing along artists that I can’t get enough of. We’ll team up for some fun collaborations and bridge the gap between film appreciation and art. For the entire month of October, creatures, spooks and things that shouldn’t be are taking over the column to celebrate Halloween! Be afraid, be very afraid!

Year: 2008
Director: Pascal Laugier
Writer(s): Pascal Laugier
Region of Origin: France
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: Unrated
Super 16, Color, 99 mins

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Martrys is an EXTRME film in every way possible; from the feral performances, aggressive violence and terrifying philosophical themes, this is one draining and utterly exhausting experience. Released at the height of the New French Extremity movement (amongst High Tension, Frontiere(s) & Inside), it’s arguably one of the most ferocious films ever made. But while it takes a strong stomach to make it through this one, there’s still an ambitious story about a society looking for faith and the promise of something greater than themselves in a world full of victims. Never taking the easy way out or flinching to deliver its message in the most brutal of ways, the madness in Martrys will surprise, challenge and bewilder audiences that can handle what it has to say and how it says it.

The film begins with the escape of a young girl named Lucie from an unknown captor. Tortured, depraved, malnourished and psychologically damaged, the young girl is taken to an orphanage where she meets Anna. Closed off and traumatized from her ordeal, Lucie befriends Anna and the two grow up together as best friends. 15 years later, Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) finds who she believes to be her captors and goes on a bloody rampage for what they did to her, entering their home and executing her own brand of justice. But this is only the beginning of her hell, and the consequences of her actions bring Anna (Morjana Alaoui) into a world she could never have dreamed of.

Despite the countless horror films which only aim to challenge and shock our tolerance levels for the sake of a thrill, this film pushes us past our limits to deliver a story that’s hard to shake once it’s all over. In other words, there’s a point to all of its mind-numbing violence, which director Pascal Laugier uses to forcefully make us ponder what lies beyond life after death. A rude awakening of sorts, Laugier systematically tears us down with the psychological equivalent of his characters’ physical torment, all while exploring the concept of transcending pain and suffering in order to be a witness for something that isn’t easily explained or tangible. Though the film isn’t tied down at all to just the religious aspect of the concept, it’s something that resonates in a powerful way, especially with how the film confronts mortality and the search of faith during utter despair.

martyrs_3On a genre level, Laugier’s film also defies definition. A loose, greatest hits compilation of the genre, there’s everything in here from home invasion, revenge thriller, some J-Horror, body terror and a few other elements that I don’t want to spoil. It may seem like a lot, but everything flows naturalistically, with a strong visual style and propulsive narrative pace, delivering 3 distinct acts which transform and change almost without us noticing. By the time you get to the end, there’s no way at all you could’ve predicted the film’s path and it ends with an emotional jolt that’s scary and in a weird sense, almost uplifting.

It would be unfair however, to talk about the film without mentioning the performances of it’s two leads. The first part of the film focuses almost completely on Mylène Jampanoï’s Lucie while the latter shifts to Morjana Alaoui’s Anna. Both actresses and characters compliment each other perfectly and you really care for what happens to them. As Lucie, Jampanoï shifts from guilt-addled to rabid, tortured emotionally and physically by her actions and what’s happened to her. And while it takes time to get to Alaoui’s character, the final message relies on her to drive the point home and she does it in such an amazing way. It’s hard to talk about her character for spoilerish reasons, but her role in the plot is pretty hefty and she ends up carrying the final act on her own. Unlike most horror films, the film relies on its two leads deliver intense and fearless performances, creating unsaid moments of silence which speak volumes and lend the story it’s most human and thought provoking moments.

When it comes down to it, this is a film that illustrates how when we’re stripped away from our physical and mortal form, what we’re left with are our actions, what we stand for leave behind to the world. Laugier definitely set out to create something that would evoke a strong response whether positive or bad, and it’s safe to say that he’s succeeded here. This is a graphic film through and through, but there’s definitely more to it that meets the eye. On every level, from narrative, execution, performances and jolting experience, Martrys is a near-masterpiece with what it does and a powerful film that will rattle you to the core.

Crome Rating: 5/5

And here’s Trevor Henderson’s poster for the film. Before doing this article, I’d only seen Martrys once but it had such an impression on me that I was really hoping someone was up to the challenge of doing art for it. Luckily Trevor was, and what he delivered is just perfect. Like the film, his painting is feels like a raw, exposed nerve, with his deep reds creating one bold, shocking and oddly beautiful piece of work! Trevor’s one of my absolute favorite horror artists, so please visit his Website, Facebook, Etsy or Twitter to stay in tuned with whatever he’s got next!

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We’re almost at the finish line of our all-month horror film series! It’s been a good one and we’re definitely going out with a bang! Be sure to check out our previous installments of horror-themed Reel Rewinds for The Relic, Splice and Pumpkinhead and we’ll see you next week!

SG