Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Martyrs: The New, New French New Wave

Previously, the most disturbing thing that I had ever seen on film is a movie called Guinea Pig: Flower Of Flesh And Blood. Guinea Pig is an experimental horror movie, but it gained notoriety in the late 80s when Charlie Sheen saw the movie and thought it was a genuine snuff film. The MPAA and the FBI were both contacted and an investigation ensued, resulting in the filmmakers being asked to show how the special effects in the movie were created. I can honestly see why Sheen would be alarmed. For the time during which it was made the effects are spectacular. In the "this-is-the-unedited-tape-that-we-found-somewhere" style of The Blair Witch project, the short film documents a Japanese serial killers stalking of, kidnapping, and eventual dismemberment of a young woman, while she is alive, no less.

Think that sounds disturbing? Well it is, but last night I think that I witnessed something that tops even that.

Martyrs is a french horror film in the tradition of High Tension and Frontiere(s). All three are French, all three are some of the most horrifically violent things I have ever seen, and all there have central characters that are lesbians gone utterly ballistic. I have no idea what it is about modern French horror, but they are obsessed with girls with really short hair getting covered in blood, it's like the equivalent of the girl with long black hair covering her face in Japanese horror. In "Martyrs", the brutality and extremity of the gore is only matched by the realism and heart that has been put into the drama, which created an experience for the viewer that is one of the most unique things I have ever seen. Last night, after watching, I didn't come away feeling the way that I do from most horror, energized and scared. It was still scary, very much so, in fact, but combined with that I just felt unbelievably sad, the way you would after viewing a ruthless drama. I can't even remember the last time the images from a movie stayed so fresh in my head.

I really had no idea what to expect when I started watching this movie, which made it all the more interesting. Not only does the plot and the pacing turn horror conventions entirely on their head, but overall movie conventions as well. It is one of those rare stories where you won't know what it is about, or what is going to happen next, until the very end and even then be left with a lot to think about. The director, Pascal Laugier, is fantastic. Apparently, he is directing the new Hellraiser remake so, as anyone familiar with the subject matter knows, expect something unbelievable.

In closing, I can't really bring myself to recommend to the causal movie goer watch Martyrs. Even as a seasoned veteran of horror and gore cinema I came away deeply effected, and I can't even imagine what that movie might do to someone who is not used to that level of intensity. What I can say though, is that if you want to push the boundaries of your emotional and mental tolerance, Martyrs is for you. If you like the new wave of French Horror than Martyrs is the cream of the crop. Otherwise, I highly recommend you stay as far away as you possibly can, and hide under the covers.


Haylee Joel said...

I thought that movie was incredible. One of the best (maybe even THE best) horror film I've ever seen. The subject matter was so fresh and raw and gritty.. I loved it.

Plus, it was fucking scary.

Joel said...

ugh. i probably shouldn't, but I feel I MUST see this now. isohunt here I come.

kyle said...

have you seen inside yet? if not, make sure its the unrated version.