Martys-2016-Torian Bellisario

Martyrs, adapted by writer by co-directors Mark L. Smith (Vacancy, The Revenant), is a successfully chilling film—as long as you ignore the original. Co-directors Kevin and Michael Goetz offer up their interpretation of the French cult horror film with a little fluff. That’s not from lack of trying by the movie’s leads, Troian Bellisario and Bailey Noble, re-imagining the roles of the tortured Lucie and the dedicated Anna respectively. Unfortunately, altering the essence of the film had lasting effects. Not even a third act appearance by Scandal’s resident evil speaker, Kate Burton could distract from this flick’s empty ending.

We begin with a young Lucie escaping a canopied tarp prison in a distant warehouse where she was chained and tortured for too long. With no evidence left behind by her captors, the police and the nuns at the orphanage are hard pressed to believe the obviously suffering Lucie. Even in freedom the young girl remains shackled to the memories of her terrifying past. Tormented by monsters at night, it’s these occurrences that keeps those closest to Lucie from believing that her nightmares were every truly real. Only Anna, another girl at the orphanage, is able to break through Lucie’s fragile silent shell.

Chocolate chip cookies make for a fast track to friendship for the two girls. Believing in Lucie’s monsters, in the fright that follows her daily causing her bodily harm and those days in the past, isn’t something Anna ever truly had to do to be Lucie’s only friend. Now, years later the estranged friends are reunited by a call for help. Lucie (Bellisario) needs Anna to see and finally believe the idealist farmhouse family Lucie found are responsible for her pain and are very real.

Screams of young children and horrifying self-inflicted injuries make it easy for the American version of Martyrs to mirror the uneasiness felt in the first act of the film. The slight plaguing doubt before triumphant confirmation is felt throughout. However, as Anna and Lucie both tumble closer to separate, yet equally damaging realizations Lucie makes a choice. Softening her suicide into a mere attempt ushers in a slightly padded down second act.

Tiny changes, including an assailant gender swap and the true meaning of Lucie’s monsters speak to the films glossy Americanized Hollywood style change. Pascal Laugier’s original stays on the path of sheer internal devastation, not for the sake of shock value or to overuse the genres go-to gore. The French film shines a light on the element that would create Martyrs. It toys with the darkest realms of realism, somewhere the American version doesn’t dare to go. While explaining away the same motives, the third act glosses its way towards a slightly more hopeful ending that turns its head from the movie’s true intentions. Parting as friends’ means coming to an ending that stings sour.