martyrs | pascal laugier | morjana alaoui | mylene jampanoi | catherine begin | french extreme | torture | france | canada | robert toupin | patricia tulasne | juliette gosselin | xavier dolan | louise boisvert | jean-marie moncelet | jessie pham | erika scott
Director: Pascal Laugier
Writer: Pascal Laugier
Starring: Morjana Alaoui, Mylène Jampanoï and Catherine Bégin
This is another film that I had heard a lot about from horror film podcasts I listen to, but it took quite awhile before finally seeing. This film is quite brutal, but if you can handle it, it is well worth it. This is now my third time seeing with the second being at the Gateway Film Center for their Horror 101 as well as another rewatch for the People’s Council for the Summer Challenge Series. The synopsis is a young woman’s quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child leads her and a friend, who is also a victim of child abuse, on a terrifying journey into a living hell of depravity.
I tried to come in knowing as little as possible about the film. I really like that we got to see the Lucie (Jessie Pham) as she escaped from her captors. This is given to us in a few different scenes, but it gets right in to her fleeing from a warehouse style building. Then we’re given more through a documentary of sorts recapping it. Early on we just get a taste of the torture she had to endure. At the time, we aren’t given why it is happening though. Something that is chilling is a chair that she was strapped to and a hole in the seat to go to the bathroom, just showing a taste of what she endured. Lucie grows to be Mylène Jampanoï in our present as well.
She has befriended Anna (Morjana Alaoui), who we end up learning is a runaway. They were both at an orphanage as children. Lucie decides to get revenge on the people that hurt her when she finds their picture in a newspaper. What I really liked about the story early on is this seems like a normal family. It made me question if Lucie has just lost it or is this really the people that hurt her. Anna seems to think that the latter is the case though and wants to rationally decide what to do.
To add this, there’s a creature that Lucie sees that she thinks is chasing her. It looks like a woman that is cut up and has been tortured to the point where her humanity is gone. This looked creepy and had me wondering from the first time seeing her if she was real or not. What it ends up being I thought was great.
This film has a few reveals that I really liked. Around the time that Lucie gets her revenge was where I was starting to wonder what was going on. The film then takes it even farther and I thought it was great as well. To fully delve into the story, I would need to spoil the film, which I really don’t want to do here. I will say I like how the film ends as it ties science and religion together. What Anna goes through is horrible and made me cringe. The ending though was great.
Going from there, I need to talk about the effects. They look to be practical and looked to be very real. The gun shots to the knife cuts all look like they really happened, which is very well done on the effects department. Seeing the torture as well looked quite vivid and a lot of it had me cringing at the brutal realism. What makes it even more interesting for me is the fact that, as a viewer I feel we become desensitized to it as our character is. That is terrifying to me. Even the after effects look so real on the characters. I could definitely see what they went through on their bodies. I was very impressed in a morbid way. I also want to include here how the film looks grainy. This was a good touch as it makes what we are seeing even more realistic.
The film was very interesting in how it was edited as well. We do follow a very linear story, but there are intercuts of things that happened to Lucie in the past. These are shown when she is sleeping or when Anna is cleaning early on. I like how they use these to fill us in on the back-story. It works as well because we get to see what Lucie went through later, but it is done to Anna. It just doesn’t tell us and it makes it that much more horrific. The film does build tension and the climax was the payoff I needed. I thought the conclusion makes sense as well.
Something else that was very good for the film was the acting. I thought Alaoui and Jampanoï did great. What their characters go through is amazing and they portrayed the effects of this very well. It seemed very believable that they dealt with everything that they did. The rest of the cast round out the film well. What I really find interesting about the supporting cast is that they seem like normal people who are doing completely horrible things. It really brings the moral of the story that we don’t know what those people around us are doing when the doors close, which is very scary. It makes you wonder if someone you know is doing something like this to people.
Now with that said, I would recommend this film if you can stomach French Extreme films. This one I had heard great things about and was satisfied after seeing it. The film has some depraved aspects that happen, but it also makes you question if Lucie is crazy or not. Early on you learn that she is mentally scarred by what happened to her which I found to be believable. The acting was good and this is coupled with the realistic effects that happen to them. It definitely made me cringe. I felt dirty after watching it and I also wanted them to get their revenge. It is interesting as to why this is happening to them and I like how it ties religion with science. This has become my new favorite from this genre. As stated, it is very realistic and made me cringe, so if you can stomach it, I definitely recommend viewing this.
My Rating: 10 out of 10