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A brutally transcendent film that takes every prisoner it can get its grubby, anarchic, bloody mitts on and squeezes the life out of you.

After escaping a tortuous medical study as a child, a woman seeks revenge on her captors and drags her girlfriend into chaos. Let’s dig into 2008’s MARTYRS, directed by Pascal Laugier!

As I See It

This may not be such a deep cut, but I’m digging this one up for two good reasons.

Reason one: Some people don’t like to watch films that they have to read. So, my goal is to tell you whether it’s worth watching in spite of the added task.

Reason 2: I produce and edit renowned tattoo artist, author, artist, and alien Dan Henk’s podcast “Skull Session”, and I can’t tell you how many times he’s mentioned this film. He recommends it to EVERYONE! I’m not saying I’ve avoided watching it out of spite, but when someone tells you to do something sooo many times, a bit of spite may seep in. It was on my Shudder feed, so I figured, what the hell.

There be SPOILERS ahead, so if you just want to know whether you should bother watching it, I’ll give you the answer now: yes, fucking yes! Only once, though, perhaps. This isn’t the type of film that should become a regular watch.

I’ve been having fun comparing films lately, which goes against my own unwritten code. But it’s a bit Funny Games meets Fight Club meets Cabin in the Woods meets Hostel meets Hellraiser.

None of those films will give you the full picture. But you can Frankenstein elements of all of them and find a center. That center is Martyrs.

There are ostensibly two films here.

The first fifty-three minutes is a psychological film with elements of the supernatural peppered in. The difference between this and typical psychological thrillers is it is really brutal. The violence takes no prisoners. It’s a battle of attrition through relentless pain and blood.

There is tons of allegory for remaining in toxic and abusive relationships and the torment we allow ourselves to endure for the sake of “love”.

With protagonist A (Lucie) out of the way, we move on to Anna’s film.

I have to admit it feels like a more juvenile film, not in its content but in its substance. There is so much time paid to “breaking” Anna. I question whether there is a quicker way to do this. It’s effective. Very effective. But I can’t help but think whether it is necessary. I ultimately don’t know the right answer, even as highly as I’ll tout the final product.

The director has admitted in interviews that he was in a severe depressive and suicidal state when he wrote this. He didn’t need to tell us that because he already showed us with Anna. What happens to her reflects how he perceived himself at the time, seeing nothing but pain. This should be moving, but ultimately I find it overly self-important.

It’s been described as nihilistic. And when someone is in an irreversible depression, that label is valid. Strangely, I found the film to change me for the better. It pushed me towards more positive thoughts, primarily out of spite and embarrassment, that Laugier showed us his darkness.

We end with a sort of Get Out-style secret society whose sole mission, and major obsession, is to discover what is beyond the horizon of death.

Anna, broken down to a being of nothingness, sees the other side and reports back her findings.

In the final nihilistic thought of the depressed mind, Laugier takes hope away from us — and the wealthy participants — in this grotesque, Mengele-like study. There is no escape, there is no hope, and there is no heaven. It is all hell, and we shall exist in it perpetually.

Famous Faces

Mylène Jampanoï was in Martyrs, and she should be applauded for it.

Morjana Alaoui was in Martyrs, and she should be applauded for it.

No other credits are necessary. This is a magnum opus. This is a one-shot action scene. You either get the shot, or you don’t, and they got the fucking shot.

Of Gratuitous Nature

Of course, the violence is the easy answer here. But the pee pee scene, what was that for? To show Anna’s submission, of sorts? I guess. But I still think it wasn’t necessary.


I’m not saying it’s like being into Juliette Lewis’s character, Mallory, in Oliver Stone’s bastardization of a Tarantino script: Natural Born Killers. But goddamn, Mylène Jampanoï is impossible to look away from. What a performance.

Ripe for a Remake

They already did. They shouldn’t have. Americans.


As stated, Hollywood couldn’t leave well enough alone. I have no intention of watching the 2015 American remake. But it exists, apparently.

Where to Watch

There are Blu-Rays out there from multiple regions. A simple Google search will find what you want. You can stream it on Shudder, Tubi, AMC+, Vudu, Pluto TV, and Plex.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 5

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