Martyrs (2008, Pascal Laugier)

“The world has come to a point that there are only victims left. Martyrs are rare.”

Where we left off last year, I’d been exploring new French horror with Frontier(s), Calvaire and Ils, which plainly made the point that it is dangerous in the countryside. This one also promotes the idea of random, senseless, brutal violence, but unlike the others it pretends to be making a point.

Young Lucie escapes from a Hostel torture factory but leaves behind another. She grows up in a school for abused kids, becomes best friends with Anna. 15 years later Lucie busts into a suburban house and intensely kills mother, father, daughter and son with a shotgun, believing they’re the ones who captured and tortured her when she was little. Anna catches up, attempts damage control by burying the bodies in the back yard, but Lucie loses her damn mind, and delusionally cuts her own throat.

Anna is cleaning up, burying her friend’s body, wondering whether these regular people in this ordinary house could be responsible for Lucie’s trauma – and that’s when she finds the giant lockdown basement and the girl with a metal blindfold stapled to her head. Kindly attempts to help the girl. Then a crew flies into the house, kills the staple girl and locks up Anna in the subterranean chamber.

Up to now the movie has been nonstop action and energy, with lots and lots of screaming and bleeding, nervously shot, with an air of WTF but not the tiresome kind that dragged down last year’s batch of horrific Frenchies. Here it slows way down as Anna is strapped down and shaved and beaten and held for months to break her spirit before all her skin is removed. The idea is that there’s a rich cult of sadists who aim to give young girls ultra-traumatic death experiences so they will narrate the afterlife. Movie sets up an interesting premise then cops out when the group leader listens to Anna’s skinless report and blows herself away before divulging her secrets. Better luck next year, France.

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