There’s only one thing worse than an overpraised foreign horror movie: its American remake. In 2008, French director Pascal Laugier unleashed one of the most controversial horror films. While it may push the envelope, I’ve never found the original film lives up to its showering of existential praise. Never as shocking as it thought it was, now, the Goetz brothers (Kevin and Michael) have managed to make yet another horrible remake — reminding me how much I didn’t care for the material to begin with. And now audiences can make the smart choice to ignore the remake with the Starz/Anchor Bay release, available now on Blu-ray.
We open with young Lucie (Ever Prishkulnik) escaping an apparent torture chamber. When the SWAT team returns to the scene of the crime, all evidence is, of course, wiped clean. They question whether she made it all up or maybe pointed out the wrong warehouse. A month later, Lucie is now at an orphanage where she makes friends with young Anna (Elyse Cole). Together they learn to help Lucie overcome her demons, until 10 years later when Lucie (Troian Bellisario) shows up at a country house where she kills a seemingly innocent family. Anna (Bailey Noble) rushes to her aid, only to question even more whether Lucie is telling the truth. When Anna discovers a trap door, she soon learns the horrifying truth behind Lucie’s madness.
Martyrs comes to Blu-ray with a rather fantastic transfer. Framed in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio on a 25GB disc, the film has plenty of room to breathe considering its 86 minute runtime and single special feature. Blacks looks great, shadow delineation is great, detail in general is exceptional, and there’s no crush or aliasing. For a low budget affair, everything is in top order. The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track isn’t quite up to par as the video. Considering it’s a horror movie should leave no surprise it’s a little front heavy. Surrounds kick in when the music tries to trick the audience into feeling some kind of emotion, but otherwise, it simply gets the job done. Dialogue is always clean and there are a few moments of prioritization. English and Spanish subtitles are included.
The only special feature is “Martyrs: A First Look” (8:22) featuring the producer, cast, and crew. The word “rollercoaster” gets mentioned, but this film couldn’t be any further from that. The setup takes almost an hour before it finally gets to the big twist, but by that point, a lot of viewers will have probably either given up and turned it off or fallen asleep. The Goetz brothers have given an already overhyped film the most neutered and boring remake imaginable. The most surprising aspect is that the film was written by Mark L. Smith, who just got co-writing credit on Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, but I have no idea what he could have possibly contributed to it. Full of characters you never root for — just because women are in peril doesn’t mean we automatically care — and an even more ludicrous ending than the original, Martyrs is simply going to find the most casual viewers showing interest based on the film’s title alone.
While I may not be a fan of Laugier’s original, it’s far more interesting than anything that happens here. At least in the original, one of the characters winds up alone in the madness that befalls her. Here, all they did was threw away the film’s one twist that works and paired up the friends in a fight to the death. Considering fans of the original are already lamenting this most unnecessary of remakes, it won’t be long before anyone even remembers the remake is finally available. I watched it days ago and wouldn’t give the film a fleeting thought were I not writing this review right now. Disposable is the best word to describe this version of Martyrs. Watch at your own risk, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.