Film Review: Martyrs (2008)

Director: Pascal Laugier
Starring: Morjana Alaoui, Mylene Jampanoi and Catherine Begin
Duration: 99 minutes


I felt compelled to write a review for Martyrs as being the second time I watched the film, it has scarred me even deeper than the first. I’m a huge fan of world cinema, some of the greatest horror films are from across the sea –Frontiers (2007), The Ring (1998), The Eye (2002), The Orphanage (2007), Audition (1999) and of course, Martyrs. Hollywood will always make incomparable remakes but it’s the originals that embed themselves deep within our nightmares. It was actually because I’d seen that Hollywood had remade Martyrs that when I saw the original on Netflix, I thought I would familiarise myself with it before tainting it by watching the remake.

Martyrs Poster ImageIf you’re yet to watch Martyrs, then I’m jealous — but honestly, prepare yourself first for a film that is neither simply horror or thriller, it goes so much deeper than either. It is a film that focuses on human sadism and behaviour, control and belief. I would go as far to say that, for me, it questions some people’s religious beliefs and will even have you questioning your own.

I don’t want to go into too much detail because no amount of words could prepare you for the movie you would expect it to be, but I’ll give you a brief rundown. It starts off by showing you a young girl escape her capturer. You see her institutionalised and befriend another young girl. You see right from the start how traumatised and messed up whatever torture she has experienced has left her. Jump forward a few years and see the same young girl massacre an entire family through an act of revenge – the mum, dad, son and daughter. And let me warn you, this isn’t like a scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) or House of 1000 Corpses (2003) (although I love both movies) – this scene is raw. Possibly the most disturbing murder scene that I’ve seen in any film (and that’s saying something!)

Anyway long story short, the second of the two orphan girls shows up and helps bury the bodies. Again the audience plays witness to more evidence of the psychological trauma the girl has been scarred with (some twisted-looking naked-monster-woman haunts her and causes her to self-harm) before she eventually kills herself.

So, you’re thinking, what’s the big deal. Well, let me tell you that at this point we are only a fraction of a way into the movie and the real fun hasn’t even started yet. What you go on to watch is sixty or so minutes of real human torture and abuse. We are shown what the human mind is capable of and what horrors we can become a part of. Martyrs teaches us that there is no need for ghosts or monsters in the horror genre, our species can create more monstrosities than any demon.

The film questions what is beyond life and takes one cults belief that a martyr has the ability to see this. If you push someone through so much pain and deprivation, you may sometimes find that special person who has the ability to shut down to their feelings and pain and allow their minds to witness what is beyond.

Without having seen the movie you won’t understand the feeling I have writing this – so many unanswered questions, so many things I want to scream at the credits as they come up when the film comes to its climatic ending.


Is this film sick? Yes. Will a lot of people choose to switch off halfway through? Probably. But remember that this film, unlike some twisted torture-porn movies, has a purpose, it has meaning and it has so many qualities that other horror films should look up to. The acting, the passion, the writing – it’s all just genius and is why it is set to be a cult movie of its own.

As for the remake – don’t bother. I was going to incorporate it much more into this review but it just isn’t worth the time. It’s a poor man’s effort at remaking a classic turning it into a car crash. Terrible. Please, I beg you, do not watch the remake unless you have seen the original as you will only ruin a beautiful piece of cinematic terror with a grisly, bottom of the pile piece of garbage.

Martyrs gets a massive 5 out of 5 from me as it’s one of the only films I’ve ever watched that makes me shiver at just its name.

Verdict: 5 out of 5

Reviewed by Steph Boddy (@steph_boddy)

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