Category Archives: Movie Review

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.

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—none of that delicate “oh, let me dab at my eyes with this tissue” crap.

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 see 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—there’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 on a second plot point. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “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 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 does a pretty good job of letting you know the main story without spoiling 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 may watch. As a warning, you may only want to watch it once (as I did). While the characters resonate deeply with me and I am invested in both of their stories, I don’t think I can watch this happen 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 I did end up bawling for a some time). And yes, it is violent. The images 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.”

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.”

Plus, I’d have to watch it again.


And I won’t do that.

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, then go read Critical Dave’s review of it (it’s full of spoilers). If you can handle it? 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.

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—trying 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—the 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—possibly 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—her 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.