Cinematic Releases: Martyrs (2016)

We review the remake of Martyrs.

Should've put a gag on it. 
No one asked for it. No one needed it. No one wanted it. But they just had to do it. They just couldn't control themselves. Believe it or not, I don't have a problem with remakes or reboots--inherently, at least. Are most of them awful, though? I wouldn't argue that, but I would argue that just because something is remade doesn't mean it's automatically going to be terrible. I believe no matter how amazing a film is, there can always be a fresh take on it to not necessarily improve the source material, but expand from it in a meaningful way. Martyrs (2016) does the opposite of that, somehow turning the knob of a horror masterpiece cranked to 11 down to 0 and breaking the knob off.

Martyrs (2016) is one of the most useless films I've ever seen in my life. It's devoid of passion. Lazily made. Awkwardly paced. Lovelessly scored. Amateurishly shot. Written with no subtlety. Dauntingly boring. Worst of all, it couldn't have missed the point any more than it had. There was absolutely nothing promising throughout the first act, with stilted, corny dialog, choppy editing, goofy directorial choices, and the cinematography of a first year film student. It gave me no reason to continue watching, fighting the urge to turn it off.

For those that don't know, the basics of the plot is a young girl named Lucie was tortured in a remote, condemned building. She escapes and runs to an orphanage where she befriends Anna. Lucie grows to seek vengeance, and Anna begrudgingly gets dragged along.

My god. It burns!!!

Technical critiques aside, the remake doesn't bother to set a believable precedent for the torture and anguish that our young lead goes through. This careless lack of purpose or gravity is felt through the remainder of the film, making me wonder why I should care. It never goes far enough. It never dives deep enough into the psychology of a tormented mind to give the audience any sense of proper motivation for the characters. I don't care what's happening because the script never builds any tension or momentum for the characters to play with. It feels as if the directors watched the original film in fast forward, with the dialog running twice as fast, scooped whatever they remembered off the top and cut that into a heartless film that misses virtually all subtlety, all purpose, and all respect for what Pascal Laugier went through to create one of today's works of psycho-horror genius. Without spoiling anything, Martyrs (2008) is a deeply personal, and therapeutic work in masterful understanding of pain and torment. This wretched, sorry excuse for a remake is downright offensive in how horribly it squashes any semblance of respect for what the original film means.

Even setting Laugier's beautifully terrifying work aside, at a core, film making level, Martyrs (2016), is still a failure in nearly every regard. Nothing follows a rhythm, tone, or sense of discipline. It's soulless. The direction seems utterly vacant, feeling as if the actors were simply told their lines, "but remember to cry and stuff," and directors Kevin and Michael Goetz then left for an extended lunch while the rest of the crew mindlessly shot what was in the wooden script. In fact, once the third act kicks in, it feels like ideas were just being thrown at the pages until the story was done. It suffers from the dreaded "and then" syndrome, where nothing feels consequential and more like the caffeine fueled ramblings of an angsty teenage girl writing her first comic book.

Amateurish. Flat out amateurish.

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When the third act is ramping up and the veil is starting to lift, they even top it off with some of the most absurd evil monologuing I've ever heard. The dialog here is buttered up with an overtly banal hero/villain questionnaire, where the writer just couldn't resist trying to cover every base possible, just in case you were dumb enough to miss something. What's so scathingly offensive about this is that the filmmakers wanted so badly to show off how much they "get" the original film, cramming this pivotal scene with more words than necessary to explain themselves, and yet they only manage to dig themselves into a deeper hole so far removed from the point it goes beyond frustrating. It's just pitiful. After fundamentally distorting and completely deleting crucial elements to a story--any story, not even a remake--they expect to be taken seriously when trying to wrap up all this nonsense with a bow. Seriously? What were these film makers thinking?

I don't think I have one good thing I can say about this film. If at least it understood what it was maybe trying to do, if at least it had respect for itself, developing its own personality and own message, then I could dig up some forgiveness somewhere. If it even looked good, or if the score was solid, or the acting tremendous, I could give it an A for effort, but they ruined their chances by puffing out their chests and acting like they had something to add to Laugier's work of bleeding passion. Its arrogance undeserved, Martyrs (2016) is bad cosplay. It struts around, wearing the cobbled-together outfit made from old napkin rolls and plastic bags, and doesn't even have the flesh and bone underneath. Why did you even try?


- J.G. Barnes

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