In recent years there has been a glut of horror remakes. Last House On The Left, Carrie and Halloween are just some examples of a trend that rarely delivers a film comparable with the original. And yet here we are with Martyrs, a film surely impossible to remake.
Viewing Pascal Laugier’s 2008 original is an experience rarely equalled in cinema. So visceral are many of the scenes, so unpredictably intense is the plot and so bold and boundary pushing is the entire concept, that it is a film impossible to forget. Whether you love or loathe Martyrs, and most may fall somewhere in between, it is a cinematic milestone; a perfect storm of uncensored filmmaking and unrestricted creativity that defines its own sub-genre. It is also a film that to this day grows in reputation through word of mouth; its name spoken in whispered reverence.
The problem with remaking it is that the original Martyrs is not a film for mass consumption; not a film for the Friday night casual horror fan looking for thrills. As such Blumhouse Productions have tasked Kevin and Michael Goetz (directors of the slow burning thriller Scenic Route) with “re-imagining” Martyrs for a new audience. And they found a solution to that problem; completely re-write the third act and tone down much of the horror. Problem solved then? Well, not exactly.
The basic premise does remain the same. Lucy (Bellisario) escapes her unknown captors as a child and several years later, with the help of only friend Anna (Noble), she tracks them down and exacts revenge. As the pair begin to dispose of the bodies they discover the truth behind Lucy’s past and the reason for her ongoing nightmares.
To really get into Martyrs would be to reveal too much about either version. In truth they are very different films and should therefore be judged on their own merits. In dramatically altering the final act and much of what leads to it, screenwriter Mark L. Smith along with the directors have removed what made the original special. Instead of an intelligent experience in intense cinema, Blumhouse now has one that, well, fits into the standard Blumhouse catalogue. Martyrs 2016 is an entertaining, fun and at times brutal horror film that will probably delight the casual horror fan. It is a decent, if diluted version of a film that many will be unaware of and is, for want of a better word, fine. One thing is certain though; this version of Martyrs will not haunt your dreams, it won’t etch itself painfully on your memory, and it won’t make you question what you think you know about modern horror filmmaking. Martyrs 2008 is a masterpiece in genre-defining filmmaking. Martyrs 2016 is just another horror film. Watch only one version but choose carefully; one will remain with you for some time, the other will be forgotten by the morning. You have been warned.
MARTYRS / CERT: 18 / DIRECTORS: KEVIN GOETZ, MICHAEL GOETZ / SCREENPLAY: MARK L. SMITH / STARRING: BAILEY NOBLE, TROIAN BELLISARIO, KATE BURTON / RELEASE DATE: 1ST APRIL
Expected Rating: 2 out of 10