Author Archives: Jenn Holton

About Jenn Holton

Near-sighted fan of way too many things, perpetual art project procrastinator and writer with post-concussion syndrome | she/her ūüėą #GoStars

Movie Review: Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs-2008

Martyrs (2008)
Director: Pascal Laugier
Rated: R

(This review was written in May of 2013)

Let me begin this review with a little story. Back in 2008, I watched this French movie called High Tension¬†and I decided that I rather liked the French horror genre. So I followed that up with Frontier(s), which had waaay more gore in it than I’m used to. That was sort of the signal to cut it out,¬†but I didn’t pay it any attention to the little person on my shoulder that was trying to save me from irreversible mental images that I would search for a real life version of brain bleach to erase them. I was enjoying a new side of foreign film and thought the premise for Martyrs¬†sounded interesting. So I checked it out.

I will never, ever, watch this movie again.

Once was enough.

However, my reason for not wanting to see it again is¬†not¬†because it’s a bad movie. It’s actually a brilliant film.

The comparison of violence I witnessed in the last, oh, half hour of Martyrs¬†to the entirety of High Tension is ridiculous. Martyrs put me through the emotional wringer and left me feeling limp and sick to my stomach. I cried for, like, a solid hour after watching this movie. Messy, gross crying, too‚ÄĒnone of that delicate “oh, let me dab at my eyes with this tissue” crap. Ugly, ugly, ugly crying.

It is a beautifully shot movie. It is extremely well-acted. The special effects are so good that one scene in particular just had me gaping in terror instead of wondering how they did it. You know that moment when an awesome stunt happens and you wonder to yourself “how did they do that? How much corn syrup did they end up using?” That never happened while I was watching Martyrs. I was just sucked in. The story had a hold on me and I believed¬†what I was seeing.

And I never want to watch it again.

Here’s the IMDb summary:

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.

“Tormented” is such a light word for them to use. No, she was tortured. But don’t go comparing this in your head to¬† Hostel or Saw. Those movies seem to celebrate their violence.¬† Martyrs is shocking when the violence happens‚ÄĒthere’s a moment when the main character shoots someone with a shotgun, and it’s very realistic. It’s not there to be celebrated, it’s there to be a part of the story that’s being told of this girl and her need for revenge and her only friend’s difficulty coping with it. There was no letting up in it at all. There are no moments of tension-breaking humor and no cutaways to secondary characters in a B plot. I¬†actually¬†wouldn’t call the violence “meaningless,” because there is a point to it; a story is being told about some terrible people who do terrible things for a specific reason to these girls.

Here is what one YouTube reviewer, SlimmBob, had to say about it:

I am only including a video for this particular movie because of how difficult it is to explain how good Martyrs is and how much I can’t make myself watch it again. SlimmBob here has a very similar reaction to my own. He also does a pretty good job of letting you know how hard it is to summarize the main story without spoiling major plot points and showing just how emotionally drained it can make you.

It is a powerful film. The narrative unfolds slowly and halfway through it one is left wondering where this could possibly be going and how on earth can it get any worse than it already has? Then it does. The main character is plunged into a situation that I will not delve deeper into to save those who are curious to watch it. Because of how the characters resonated deeply with me and I was so invested in both of their stories, I don’t think I can watch this happen to them again. But I do recommend it for it’s dramatic narrative. As far as story-telling goes, Martyrs weaves one hell of a tale that leaves the viewer thinking about the outcome for hours after you have turned the DVD player off.

As an avid horror film watcher, I am a poor gauge to measure how “gory” something is (after seeing so many I’ve gotten rather desensitized to the imagery and this, frankly, worries me). I’ll put it this way: emotionally, by the end of it all, I felt like curling into a dark corner and crying for a while (and, like I said, I did end up bawling for a some time). And yes, it is incredibly violent. The scenes in the last twenty to fifteen minutes were hard for me to watch, but I was just too transfixed (in the “oh god, oh god, oh god” sense of the word) to turn away.

There is talk¬†about remaking¬†Martyrs¬†for the American audience with¬†the producers of Twilight, and to that I say: “Pppffffttt. That’ll never happen.” [Edit from the future: I was so wrong.]

And I hope it doesn’t. Because a version of this movie that’s palatable to America’s current audience would be impossible to watch. They’d change the things that made the French version so chilling just to keep from offending anyone. They’d dumb it down. In fact, the guy they want to direct it, Daniel Stamm, said this:

“[The original film] is very nihilistic. The American approach [that I’m looking at] would go through all that darkness but then give a glimmer of hope. You don’t have to shoot yourself when it’s over.”

That whole “there is no hope” thing was kind of part of the whole movie, so… No. Just, no.

I can’t make myself recommend this one to everyone. It was an excellent example of filmmaking, but it was just so… If your curiosity has been piqued but you can’t make yourself watch something that will either make you feel utterly depressed or sick (and you don’t want to see clips of the gore in a spoiler review on YouTube), then go read Critical Dave’s review of it. If you can handle a movie that’s emotionally exhausting and very graphic? Do a little research on it first and watch it.

Here is the trailer:

UPDATED 1/26/2016:
They remade it. I watched the trailer and I was sooooo right. They added a happy ending. Here’s a good reaction to it from YouTuber spookyastronauts:

Movie Review: Burning Bright (2010)

BURNING BRIGHTDVD
Burning Bright (2010)
Director: Carlos Brooks
Rated: PG13

I dug up this film while going through Garret Dillahunt’s IMDb page‚ÄĒtrying to find at least one movie he’d been in where he¬†wasn’t¬†a bad guy. The man is typecast, I swear. I found this recent (sort of) title and, having never heard of it (despite its original premise), decided to check it out.

It’s about a young woman and her autistic brother trapped in a boarded-up house with a Bengal tiger during a hurricane.

Trust me, it’s actually pretty good.

The film opens with a cameo by Meat Loaf. He’s not in the credits, but it’s kind of hard to miss the guy when you’re from my generation. Dillahunt’s character, Johnny, is trying to buy a Bengal tiger for his safari venture and Meat Loaf is warning the man about the danger of the specific tiger he’s got in the cage. It’s attacked people before.

Screen shot 2013-05-19 at 4.40.39 PM

There are two things going on here. Johnny has spent, like, all of the family’s money (he’s the stepfather‚ÄĒthe mother committed suicide) on this safari thing and has basically wasted it all. Our protagonist, Kelly (Briana Evigan),¬†needs to send her brother to a hospital for his special needs, however, and they can’t afford it. She¬†has a scholarship for college, but must start within the next semester because she has cited family issues to defer twice beforehand. Which means she is putting off college to take care of her little brother. She confronts her stepfather and they argue.

Screen shot 2013-05-19 at 4.41.06 PM

The second plot point is the coming hurricane. The house is boarded up tight and Kelly falls asleep. She wakes during the storm, finds a note from Johnny saying that he went to the store, and then sees a huge Bengal tiger cross the hallway. Did I mention that he’s been starved for a while now?

Screen shot 2013-05-19 at 4.42.19 PM

She can’t leave the house because it’s all boarded up from outside. She can’t get through to emergency services on her cell phone because the call volume is so high during the hurricane. Spoiler, Johnny is the one who let the tiger loose in the house. He has hunkered down in a bar for the duration of the storm‚ÄĒpossibly with the intention of collecting the insurance money in the event of the kids’ deaths.

Screen shot 2013-05-19 at 4.43.06 PM
Pictured: an utter douchebag

And he would have gotten away with it had Kelly been less resourceful. There is a brilliantly filmed moment where she’s hiding from the tiger in the laundry chute‚ÄĒher bare feet sliding and gripping the metal as the animal prowls below, peeking up the laundry chute when he hears her.

It’s not a¬†masterpiece¬†of a movie. It drags here and there and the plot is a little questionable (did Meat Loaf just advertise “man-eating tiger” on CraigsList or something?). But it is a bit of a unique twist on the old “killer in the house” trope. Because of the hurricane, Kelly can’t simply grab her brother and run outside. She can’t get through to the authorities because emergency services is too clogged up. Dialogue kind of suffers, though, in place of these riveting moments with the tiger. The tiger, himself, is cleverly filmed. This is not a computer generated animal. This tiger is real and very menacing. Remember the scene with the tiger in¬†Gladiator¬†and how that was so cool? Okay, maybe not, but my point is that the filming technique in¬†Burning Bright¬†is something worth seeing.

Screen shot 2013-05-19 at 4.53.40 PM

Now, is this movie worth¬†buying?¬†Well, the DVD comes with special features, so it is. In my mind, a DVD has infinite re-watchability if it includes something like a behind the scenes documentary or a commentary track.¬†So, check it out. The set-pieces with the tiger alone are very much worth seeing. And it’s a clever take on the “killer in my house” trope since Kelly can’t leave due to the hurricane. Even if she managed to get outside the house, where the hell is she going to go to get out of the storm?

Nowhere, that’s where.

The Depiction of Suicidal Ideation in 13 Reasons Why

I quit watching 13 Reasons Why at the end of the third episode.

I know, that makes my little post here a bit more invalid than the many others floating around online, but hear me out. Having read summaries for the later episodes that I didn’t watch, I know that Hannah is put through a traumatic experience far beyond being subjected to asshole teenagers being assholes. So my opinion may be rendered incorrect‚ÄĒfeel free to do so in the comments. Continue reading

Words Do Hurt

Like many people, I was bullied as a child. It was something I grew used to from my peers. I was a little too weird for my own good. My fixation on horses often got me compared to them in unflattering terms. ‚ÄúLook at her,‚ÄĚ one boy would say as I drank from the water fountain, ‚Äúshe even looks like a horse when she drinks!‚ÄĚ

But it was never the other kids that were the worst bullies. It was a teacher. Continue reading