Anna rushes to help her friend Lucy, who was viciously abused as a young child, clean up the aftermath of the revenge she visited upon her abductors 15 years later. Was Lucy the only victim? Are they alone in this idyllic home? What nightmares lie beneath the tranquil facade of this house of horror? In search of the truth they uncover a sadistic cult organization determined to make a Martyr of each subject rather than a simple victim.Written by
I'm not even going to lay out a plot blurb for this, because if you are planning on seeing it, chances are you have already seen Pascal Laugier's 2008 original and know what's up. In fact, it's probably not inaccurate to say that the only people who may be seeing this film are those already acquainted with the source material, as this remake had virtually zero publicity, a sad excuse of a theatrical release, and a buzz that was DOA.
By most accounts, this remake of "Martyrs" was doomed by the mere fact of it being a remake; it's difficult to outdo something with as much palpable intensity and thematic abhorrence as the original film. and that's precisely where this film most falls flat. There is an inexplicable feeling of shallowness to the picture that pervades it from nearly beginning to end. Part of it is the lackluster cinematography, and part of it is the lack of dynamism in the performances, but most of all, it feels like the filmmakers in general were dispassionate about the material itself, and it shows.
The truth is, a remake could have worked, but it would have needed at least a little life breathed into it, and this film feels like it was taken off life support from day one. The script here is near identical to the original film's, and it begins as a near shot-for-shot remake, but falls off that train within the first ten minutes. In fact, the film only really begins to diverge in the final act, which is honestly where I found the it to be most convincing. I may be the minority here, but I actually thought the way they rewrote the conclusion was clever and intriguing without being too much of a touchy-feely tradeoff—it still maintained the dark nerve of the original's ending, which I respected, and the last five minutes may be the only portion of the film that I truly thought was worthwhile.
The acting here is decent, but the lead female actresses at times seem to be going through the motions. Some obtuse dialogue doesn't exactly help matters either. Kate Burton is an interesting and solid choice for the cultist matriarch, and I actually enjoyed her performance in this quite a bit.
Overall though, "Martyrs" only barely begins to scratch the surface of what the original film did, and it's unfortunate. It fails to capture any of the remote coldness, psychological disconnect, or stark brutality that made the original film so unforgettable, and ends up feeling like little more than a direct-to-video horror flick with about a fifth of the vitality. When watching the remake, one feels like the film is self-consciously going through the motions, and when taking into consideration its stodgy demeanor, failed distribution, and complete lack of any and all promotion, "Martyrs" 2016 ultimately feels like a production that was given up on before it had even begun. Where the original was gutsy, stylish, and unsparing, the remake manages to be the film equivalent of a death rattle. 4/10.
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