Saturday, October 29, 2011

Martyrs: Film parody

I had no other purpose in mind than telling a story I felt connected to, doing a film I had faith in, and doing it with all my heart. When I was writing MARTYRS, I couldn't see another way to talk about all the things that were surrounding me. On a metaphorical way, horror was the perfect tool to react to the feeling I had, like a sad intuition, that the world we're living in right now is a brutal and unfair one. I mean, very brutal. It seems that the cynism and the power of the winners has killed everything. It seems that our urban societies are more than ever driven by the forces of jungle laws, by rules created by the strongest and the dominant people. I'm not saying anything original about injustice of our times, but it was strong enough in me to create the necessity of doing that film. The system creates a lot of losers, a lot of suffering weak people I feel very close to and MARTYRS in its way tells about them. So I would say that the horror genre is a way to talk about things that preoccupy me a lot. As a fan, I always took the films from the masters Argento, Carpenter, Polanski and dozens of other great artists as their own personal visions of life. That's why I liked them humanly too. And that's why I love horror so much. 
Pascal Laugier

So visionary
I really wish I had known a bit more about the film Martyrs so I could have skipped wasting the 1 and 1/2 hours I put in trying to watch this. Just word-of-mouth that it was supposedly "one of the best horror films ever made" made me decide to watch it. I'm not a fan of horror particularly but I enjoyed being scared by films like The Exorcist and Poltergeist, and I'm interested in good films regardless of genre. I did not catch on to the fact that the same people who were praising Martyrs probably thought that August Underground's Mordum was a masterpiece, and this naivete is what led to the experience I ultimately ended up with.

My experience watching this film was similar to the expereinces I had trying to watch El Topo and 120 days of Sodom and is probably the last attempt I am ever going to make to objectively view or understand anything in this niche of European films. I sat through a huge amount of gratuitous violence, torture, and depravity in the hope that at some point I would begin to find the beginning of the thread the director was trying to spin to at least justify all the crap that had gone before. Once I got to the point where I realized that such a moment was not coming and that despite the director's claim , there was actually no story being told, I stopped watching. In Martyr's case this occurred around 1:20:00. I really wish it had been less.

Martyrs is basically a snuff film that uses a 5 min monologue by a nameless character on a ridiculous paper-thin premise to justify the extended scenes of graphic torture and abuse of young girls.  Here's a synopsis of the film : a shadowy organization systematically drives young girls insane with hideous torture and abuse till they begin to 'see things that others can't'. That's it. fin. If a 16-year old high school student had written the screenplay of Martyrs for a term paper she would have gotten a D-. In this regard it's very similar in execution to 120 Days of Sodom. where depiction of the kidnapping, sexual abuse and murder of a group of teenage girls and boys is justified by the kind of  idiotic liberal moralizing that makes your ears bleed listening to it.

It's society that's killing you, stupid.
It's not the fact that Martyrs is exploitation torture porn that bothers me - there's hundreds of films made and being made like it, and films like Saw and Hostel are constantly trying to push this so-called genre into the mainstream. But the fact that people actually consider this film to have any kind of creative merit says a lot more about human nature than what was depicted in the film.  And it's the cynicism of the director/writer of this film that is a lot more disturbing than watching teenage girls in their underwear getting tortured. So apparently the trend in horror no is to see how many extended scenes of graphic torture can fit into 2hrs and just under an 'R' rating. And then some idiot on the Internet gets to write about how the destruction of innocent girls represents the death of God and of innocence and so on and so forth...

Maybe torture porn should become a recognized and clearly-labelled genre like XXX (TTT?) so stuff like this would not have to share the same space with The Exorcist and Poltergeist and The Ring. Directors could celebrate nihilism and depravity all they want without having to carry the bourgeois burden of plot, character development, etc. All that would be required would be a simple 5-minute setup scene - an analogue to the beginning of movies where a 19-year old girl dressed in short shorts and stripper heels walks in on 5 guys playing pool and tells them her car broke down and she doesn't have any money for a mechanic or taxi.

In films like Evil Dead or Alien the violence and fear and gore provided a visceral experience, but one whichwas always embedded in something larger - a fantasy about some unknown thing in the dark that we all have this primeval dread of, like the supernatural or alien species. The ordeal the characters went through always had a rationalization you could accept as necessary to the fantasy. Films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th and Halloween have always been about nothing more but entertainment - the kind of stuff you go see when you're 19 and with 10 people and you immediately forget as soon as you leave the car park. Nobody tries to sell House of Wax or Final Destination or I Know What You Did Last Summer as anything but 2 hours of teenagers getting killed in ways which were similarly gruesome and comical. But to me Martyrs is less horror film than parody. It's just a vehicle for sadism and depravity; that's all I can say about it. There's no difference between and it and any movie starring Lisa-Ann as Sarah Palin or Sasha Grey as a doctor.
Better than Martyrs
At least movies like the above don't insult your intelligence and pretend they're anything more than pandering to people's desire for visceral excitement. People who enjoy watching  torture and abuse will like Martyrs and praise it just as they did Cannibal Holocaust and every Italian and French exploitation film they come across. But here's a question to anybody who sees any artistic merit in Martyrs: why did the writer choose young women to be 'the most sensitive' to the supposed 'transformation'? Why couldn't it have been old men who were chosen to be 'martyrs'? The answer is that nobody wants to see old men in their underwear tortured, abused, and degraded. I guess that's not artistic enough.

Sure Martyrs is disturbing. But if I wanted to be disturbed all I have to do is get on the net and pull up pictures and news about the Somali famine or the DRC or Sierra Leone or Liberian civil wars. There's enough real-life suffering and depravity in this world to last 1000 life times. I really don't need films like this to supposedly tell me how screwed up life is


  1. I was begining to worry that i was the only one thinking that these movies were just a case of jamming tits and gore onto a screen nice to know i'm not the only one who thinks so

  2. Hi, this film that is a lot more disturbing than watching teenage girls in their underwear getting tortured. So apparently the trend in horror no is to see how many extended scenes of graphic torture can fit into 2hrs and just under an 'R' rating. thanks for publishing it Dissertation writing service