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    Martyrs (2016): Movie Review

    "Just another wasted remake.”

    Martyrs was a highly intriguing torture porn back in 2008. Directed by Pascal Laugier, the French-Canadian extremist film unabashedly and tastefully depicts its spine-tingling and relentless level of graphic violence like flaying alive. It is an endurance test and its sad haunting ending makes it more stirring and evocative. It is not surprising that Hollywood picks up the rights to the film and, voila, makes a remake of it. Filmmaker brothers Kevin and Michael Goetz give their own take of the movie, and fans of the original Martyrs may not be too happy about the end result.

    Similarly, the present film features a story of vengeance of a young woman and her devoted friend. It begins with young Lucy escaping from what appears to be a place of torture. She later finds herself inside an orphanage and soon makes friend with Anna to whom she becomes much attached. Ten years after, Lucy (Troian Bellisario) tracks down those who abused her, intent on exacting her revenge and freeing herself from the demons in her sleep. She finds a family in a rural estate and mercilessly kills them with a shot gun. Anna (Bailey Noble) is horrified with what her friend had done, even more so when she discovers a secret torture chamber and a young prisoner named Sam (Caitlin Carmichael). However, the 911 she had dialed earlier alerted the secret society behind the human experiment and lead by a mysterious woman (Kate Burton), they come to clean up the mess created by the two friends.

    Today’s an era of zombies and superheroes and seeing movies the likes of Saw, Hostel and Wrong Turn makes you roll your eyes and sigh the words “not again.” But a reimagining of Martyrs may be different as the source material is considered one of the best. Sadly, this remake does not outshine or even stand in equal footing with the first movie. It does not entirely replicate the original production; instead, it adds new elements which are unfortunately not too effective.

    Firstly, the current film invests more on building tension than portraying various acts of torture. It is initially successful as it quickly draws attention and interest. However, it is not able to maintain such hold as the suspense soon becomes mechanical and familiar. It is too tame and mild (possibly to attract more mainstream viewers) compared to the first feature that the trauma inflicted on Lucy does not strike to be well grounded and convincing. It tries to be a lot more scary than icky but such effort is too weak for the genre.

    The remake also attempts to be more character-driven, exploring Lucy’s fears, Anna’s unyielding compassion, and their extraordinary bond of friendship. Still, the investment falls short and premises like Anna becoming a willing accomplice, her loyalty, and her rise to being a femme fatale are remotely believable. Other elements like the religious touch also muddy the narrative.

    Performances are passable. While Bellisario overplays her part (which is just fine as her character is too troubled and unhinged), Noble is too pretty and prim throughout. It is Burton who suffers the most as her presence does not excite like Laugier’s Mademoiselle.

    Martyrs tries not to copy the original film verbatim. It offers more suspense, deeper analysis of characters, and a more hopeful ending. Yet, such efforts fail and the movie ends up joining the list of remakes that should not have been done.

    Production: Blumhouse Productions, The Safran Company, Temple Hill Entertainment
    Cast:Troian Bellisario, Bailey Noble, Kate Burton, Caitlin Carmichael, Toby Huss, Lexi DiBenedetto, Taylor John Smith, Diana Hopper, Blake Robbins
    Directors: Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz
    Screenwriter: Mark L. Smith
    Producers: Wyck Godfrey, Peter Safran
    Executive producers: Dan Clifton, Morgan White
    Director of photography: Sean O’Dea
    Production designer: Alan Roderick-Jones
    Editor: Jake York


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