Martyrs (2008) Director: Pascal Laugier

Pascal Laugier's Martyrs isn't for the faint-hearted, but if you can take the violence it's a clever and gripping film about death and the 'afterlife', taking inspiration from many genres; classic horror and 'ghost' stories, the 'rape/revenge' flick, and torture porn/Hostel.

From the opening shots of a bloodied young girl - Lucie - escaping a disused abbatoir, Martyrs does not wimp out on the extreme. After time in an orphanage where Lucie befriends Anna, we are then taken forward fifteen years where Lucie exacts her brutal revenge on the husband and wife who held her captive in the abbatoir in her youth. Even their children are not spared over the breakfast table, as Lucie guns them down with a shotgun one-by-one. It's horrific, unflinching violence - that's an important thing to point out about Martyrs, the camera never turns away. It lingers too long, but as the plot manifests, it almost justifies what we see, uncomfortable as it is.

The film has the perfect Three Act structure - Lucie's revenge in Act 1, Anna discovering what Lucie went through in Act 2, and then Anna's own 'martyrdom' in Act 3. Act 3 is the real heavy-going stuff as Anna is abused and brutalised by her captors, a chilling and nameless organisation who seek to understand the secrets of the afterlife. The introduction of the sinister 'Mademoiselle' - in charge of the whole process to 'martyr' young women - is clever and brings a whole new perspective to the movie; we thought it was the classic revenge flick, now it turns into something a whole lot more horrific. Anna is their next guinea pig and that signals BAD TIMES ahead.

If you can get through the last 20 minutes - and be warned, they are some of the most horrific scenes with the sustained abuse and torture of Anna - you too will learn the secret of what Anna tells Mademoiselle about her glimpse into the life after next. Would I dare share that with you here? Of course not; I'm going to make you sit through it. If you do, you'll be part of a fine piece of film-making and a total cinematic 'experience'. And, after all, that's what good cinema is all about - even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. The final shot of Anna will stay with you for some time.
5/5 pick 'n' mix