I had a tough time even finding an appropriate screenshot to place at the top of this review, so infamously gruesome is Martyrs – the 2008 “New French Extremity” film by Pascal Laugier. I think this has languished unseen on the past two Summers of Horror – partly due to lack of streaming options, part being my own anxiety. I’ve seen a LOT of gory movies. Most of them don’t do much for me, but depending on the nature of the violence, there are a few select movies that really hit me with images I couldn’t shake. Irreversible’s interminable rape scene was one, as was the fire extinguisher kill. The “wishbone” scene from Bone Tomahawk, the animal dissections in Cannibal Holocaust, to name a few. I was a little apprehensive about Martyrs having something like that.
Fortunately, although Martyrs is certainly extremely gruesome and disturbing, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. And even better, the actual movie underneath all that gore was pretty good.
Essentially, what we have is a strange revenge tale in the first half, and a torture porn movie in the second. Although, I hate the term torture porn and prefer not to degrade a good film by using it. I hope it’s not spoiling too much by revealing that the torture is done with purpose here: the creation of so-called “martyrs” who, through intense, prolonged suffering, may or may not be able to glimpse the afterlife.
There’s way more to it than that, but I do recommend discovering it for yourself. It’s a tough watch, but if you have the stomach for such things it’s worth it.