I’m not sure how to even approach talking about Martyrs. As a horror fan, as a gore fan, this was a remarkable movie. To say I “enjoyed” it would feel a little strange because unlike many films, even horror films, it doesn’t entertain in a traditional way.
It’s an beautifully cinematic view of very ugly, depraved things. I enjoyed the tension, the repulsion, the pity that Laugier manages to evoke from the audience. The first half of the movie is intense and horrifying giving no chance to recover before it comes at you again. I’ve got it, I was impressed. As someone with a strong stomach and a ridiculous number of horror films under my belt, Martyrs managed to blow me away.
Now, that being said, I don’t know that I could recommend it to just anyone. You have to be aware of what you’re getting into. I would loosely equate it to some of the more visceral moments of a movie like Irreversible. It’s a violent, bloody, immensely disturbing film that I wouldn’t want anyone to miss but it may be horribly effective on certain people and I would want them to be prepared. The first half of the film is much stronger and moves at such an insane pace that the second half ends up as a bit of a let down.
Alaoui and Jampanoï are amazing actresses and deliver wonderful performances as Anna and Lucie. The authenticity they bring to the characters only makes it that much harder to watch and endure. This ends up as one of those uncomfortable films that need to be seen but can be a hard journey to get through, it makes the Saw franchise and the Hostels (it’s often compared to both franchises when people start throwing the term “torture porn” around), seem like PG rated after school specials made for TV.
I loved it, consider yourself warned.