A young girl escapes from captivity and torture; years later, she tracks down her captors, along with her sceptical best friend, only to get caught up in more grimness.
The film opens on a young girl (Ever Prishkulnik) managing to escape what looks like a painful captivity in some abandoned building. Committed to a Catholic orphanage, young Lucy is befriended by a generous and open girl, Anna, who quickly realizes her quiet new friend is haunted by a monster, though whether real or imagined, Anna can’t say.
Cut to 10 years later, when an idyllic-seeming family’s lazy morning is interrupted by a brutal invasion: It’s Lucy, now a young woman (ably played with an admirable fierceness by Pretty Little Liars star Troian Bellisario) and out for blood, convinced that the mother and father of this happy home are the ones responsible for her imprisonment as a child.
After her attack, she contacts Anna, her old friend, to come help her take care of the situation—but when Anna arrives, it immediately becomes clear she’s less than convinced that Lucy, after all this time, actually found the right people. More importantly, it quickly becomes clear that whatever’s hunting Lucy isn’t going to be satisfied by the young woman’s blood offering.
The original French film, written and directed by Pascal Laugier, has attained cult status as one of the most grueling and upsetting of the recent era of horror cinema that nonetheless deserves critical plaudits—more Audition than A Serbian Film, in short. Laugier is a provocateur with a fondness for narrative twists coupled with weighty political and philosophical themes, as demonstrated (to solid but lesser effect) in both his debut House Of Voices and more recent English-language thriller The Tall Man.
His Martyrs is in part an endurance test, a film that dares you to look away from its disgusting images even as it invites you to grapple with a story in which suffering plays a pivotal role. In reworking it for the no-subtitles English audience, that element of endurance is gone, and with it, the gut-punch of an ending which felt so earned is excised, in order to hurriedly wrap up a plot that now feels more trashy than weighty.
Martyrs (American 2016 Remake)
Directed by: Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz
Starring: Troian Bellisario, Ever Prishkulnik, Bailey Noble, Kate Burton, Caitlin Carmichael, Melissa Tracy, Romy Rosemont
Screenplay by: Mark L. Smith
Production Design by: Alan Roderick-Jones
Cinematography by: Sean O’Dea
Film Editing by: Jake York
Costume Design by: Sheila Hume
Art Direction by: Vivian Quaid
Music by: Evan Goldman
MPAA Rating: None.
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: January 22, 2016