Well, hello there. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Peggy Christie and I’m a horror author from Michigan. I’m so excited that Dave has given me the chance to resurrect a movie review column I used to do a few years back. And it’s pretty much what you think – I drink, get a good solid buzz on, and review a film. I can’t say 100% that the level of snark in my reviews is in direct correlation to the amount of tequila I consume…but I can’t NOT say that either.
It might also be good to note that I cuss like a drunken sailor and, in general, tend to not give a flying fuck about individual’s delicate sensibilities or triggers.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Now that the housekeeping is out of the way, let’s get to the premier of the Drunken Monkey Movie Review at Malevolent Dark.
This movie, as far as I can tell and have seen, is a well-liked and often lauded horror film. Personally, I’m still seething that I wasted one hour and thirty-nine minutes of my life watching it. I’m referring to the 2008 French cinema verite film, Pascal Laugier’s demonstration in torture porn, Martyrs.
Breaking Down Martyrs
I’ve seen several different synopses of this flick, many being completely off the mark, but it boils down to two parts. The first is about a young girl, Lucie, who is kidnapped and tortured for reasons unknown by people unknown. Once free, and recovering in a hospital, she befriends Anna. After an unknown amount of time has passed, Lucie disappears and no one hears from her again.
Fifteen years later, we see Lucie as a young woman, seeking revenge against the people who hurt her. Anna is helping but she’s obviously torn between supporting Lucie and participating in the revenge visited upon the perpetrators.
Unfortunately, because of her involvement, Anna is then kidnapped and tortured by the now more organized group of strangers. This is the second part of the film – Anna’s turn to live the nightmare that Lucie must have gone through years earlier. And when Anna reaches the end of that torture?
As many people enjoy this film, I’ll do my best not to spoil anything for future viewers. Just know the motivations attributed to the kidnappers (via exposition dump), the actions they took, and the blunt ending were the most ridiculous and nonsensical bullshit I’ve seen in a long time.
I’m not saying the whole film is shit. The visuals fit every scene. Most of the film is dark and brooding, which tracks with the subject matter. The short time period where Lucie was safe at the hospital, though, utilizes brighter lighting to lift the mood and create a more hopeful atmosphere. I liked that it was short lived; it made everything else even more stark and hopeless.
The special effects of the torture on the few living victims we see is beyond fucked up. While French films are not my first choice in general, movies like this and À l’intérieur show me how twisted and disturbed the French can be with their horror visuals. And while I won’t spoil anything, I admit the final stage of suffering for Anna makes me wanna say, “What in the actual fuck is wrong with you, France?”
Almost worth the price of my peace of mind.
Decent Acting Supports a Flailing Plot
The acting of Mylène Jampanoï (Lucie) is phenomenal. Her suffering, her rage, and her inevitable surrender is palpable. We are right there with her at every step. We want her to get revenge. We want her to finally be at peace. And even when it came, it broke my heart to let her go. Morjana Alaoui (Anna) did a great job as well, though even when she became the focus in the latter half of the film, she still felt like the second lead.
All the other characters, while necessary, felt peripheral. Like they were ONLY there to do the bare minimum to advance the story. And while I understand the character of Mademoiselle, the old woman who is the leader of the whack-a-doos, lends a sense of purpose behind their psychotic shenanigans, she was neither intimidating nor impactful in any way.
The story itself is rather weak. The revenge part is nothing new; trauma and its effect on developing children is nothing new. Actually not even the group’s motivation is new but how they go about to achieve their goal seems convoluted and absurd. I’m not saying a movie has to be completely grounded in reality. But at the very least, I have to believe that what a character does makes sense.
And these fuckers don’t make sense, especially when the Mademoiselle abruptly leaves the scene.
With thirty minutes left in the film, I had already sobered up and felt like I was working my way through the Five Stages of Grief:
“Is this a joke? No, this can’t be right.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? That’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard!”
“Okay, just tell me this all makes sense at the end and I’ll be happy.”
“Holy fuck, why am I even still watching this pile of tripe? I’m wasting my life.”
“Well, it is what it is. Fin.”
I can’t even…
Summing Up Pascal Laugier’s Work
While there are aspects I can appreciate, I don’t really understand why this film is so popular. I’m sure it has deeper layers and metaphors and artistic elements that can be discussed and debated. BY SOMEONE ELSE. That shit ain’t for me. I’m not always a simple caveman when it comes to horror films, but I don’t enjoy drawn-out and overly complicated plots that come off as more Escher than entertainment.
1 Margarita (out of 5)
Pascal Laugier's Martyrs (2008), WTF France?!?! - Malevolent Dark
Director: Pascal Laugier
Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33