Martyrs Pascal Laugier

This decade has seen the French rise to the forefront of transgressive cinema with a string of films that have shattered whatever boundaries were once in place. From Irreversible to High Tension to 2007's double whammy of Inside and Frontier(s), France has ignored all limits, pushing the envelope to extremes that make even the fiercest gore hound wince, at least ever so slightly. Martyrs, however, takes the extremity of Inside's lingering climax and ups the ante. Locked up, neglected and tortured in an abandoned slaughterhouse, adolescent Lucie escapes and authorities place her in a youth home, but fail to find her captors. After a long stretch of time, she finds protection under the wing of friend Anna, who becomes her one and only confidante. Fast forward 15 years and Lucie leads Anna to an idyllic home where without warning, she opens fire and kills a seemingly innocent family of four. And from there, director/writer Pascal Laugier completely flips the script, introducing a harrowing world of pain and suffering in such an unexpected way that it makes the second half of the film physically and emotionally unbearable. Whereas the "torture porn" of the horror world forced the viewer to become a voyeur, Laugier avoids this by treating the viewer like the victim onscreen, forcing unimaginable punishment until you reach empathy, or in the film's twisted case, the state of martyrdom. I can see why the studio chose Laugier to remake Hellraiser — what he's achieved with Martyrs is even beyond the harsh, torturous world of the Cenobites that Clive Barker depicted. Unfortunately there isn't much in the way of extras, which is a shame because I would have loved to hear Laugier explain how on earth he came to imagine such a frightening, grotesque concept as this. (Seville)