What does it say to the viewer when the director, on a DVD edition, has an introduction to a film where he apologizes for what you are about to see? French director Pascal Laugier writes and directs the co-produced French and Quebec, Canadian feature film Martyrs starring the beautiful actresses Mylène Jampanoï and Morjana Alaoui. Part of the new variety of extreme French horror films, Martyrs may be the most literary and nihilistic of the bunch, yet arguably the most important.
As Lucy and Anna, two young foster girls, come face to face with a simple middle class family that may have some relationship to the early childhood kidnapping and abuse of one of them, shocking violence ensues. Was the family responsible for the unexplained cruelty and exploitation which Lucy had to ordeal as a child or was it a case of mistaken identity that goes awry? What appears to be a revenge film filled with wrongful deaths may only be the scratching of the surface of a story that could include demons, cults, torture, and the very existence of God, Satan, and the afterlife.
Having a lead cast that is all female and focusing on such horrible real life nightmares as child abuse, sociopathology, extreme religious conviction, mans inhumanity against man, fanatical sects both scientific and spiritual, and the unfulfilling act of vengeance, Martyrs takes an extreme approach to topics that main stream films only try to brush over. While leading the viewer to its ambiguous ending, the film changes focus at a minimum of five times and presents the audience with a new theme during each new direction. From the very opening seconds until the rolling of the final credits, the audience has no time to breathe or let sink in what they see during the film’s 94 minutes. Though just over an hour and a half, Martyrs packs a punch that most screenwriter’s only wish for.