In 2008, Pascal Laugier directed Martyrs, which remains, a tad unknown to those outside of the core of horror fans, and passed by the mainstream Hollywood elite, for the content equals disturbing brutality and unnerving concepts garnishing a cult status quickly for all the perverse violence display in an unrestrained manner. Enter in directors Kevin and Michael Goetz, with a low budget secret project from Blumhouse Productions and The Safran Company, which had the briefest of rumors associated with it on the internet, as the filmmakers insisted the movie is not the dreaded term “remake” but rather a reimaging of the original plot. The characters remain the same, and the script comes from screenwriter Mark L. Smith (who wrote and directed Séance (2006)) and now the acclaimed Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Revenant (2015). In addition, this independent film, with a tight shooting schedule of 20 days, reaffirms not a shot-for-shot design, replaces the ultra-violence with more of a scary storyline, and lessens the gore factor quite considerably. WHAT? Yes, that is right moody, broody, intimidating conceptual storyline with suggestive religious understands, or in other words, not wanting to offend.
The plot of this tale, for those unaware, revolves around a young 10-year-old girl name Lucie (Ever Prishkulnik), who is tortured, but manages to flee her captors, from the medical chamber inside a warehouse, who then escape and she lives out her existence at a catholic orphanage where she becomes friends with Anna (Elyse Cole). These young actresses handle the role easily and capable of showing the bonding experience, through seeking chocolate chip cookies and staring at clouds. A nicely designed mousetrap from the cinematography to capture the friendship and reel in the audience, only to transition to 10-years later and have a normal appearing family answering the door at the wrong time. Lucie (Troian Bellisario), now an adult comes bearing arms, actually a double-barrel shotgun, blasts her way into their lives, before calling in her friend Anna (Bailey Noble (The Good Neighbor )) for moral support. Troian and Bailey, both newcomers to the horror genre, which is fitting as the directors for this production, equally have no horror film experience. The movie follows the path of the original for the first half with a sincere honor favor, it is in the second half where the movie spins sorely apart and leaves the viewers scattered in the wake. When Lucie finds her captors living in a white picket fence home in a rural area, no mentioned of how she found them, as all she knew was the warehouse, and sadly, it becomes one major obstacle for the film, fret not, the issues clearly handle by ignoring it. We, as does Anna, find both shock and disbelief of the chaos that Lucie causes and the creature that was terrorized in the past and now in the present comes apparent to everyone. From here to the conclusion the movie leans to religious overtures of horror, but avoids all the options to tight the tensions and explore the spiritual extremism of the cult headed by Eleanor (Kate Burton), except to state the torturing of Lucie opens gateway to the afterlife and the lord all through her agony as a Martyr.
Martyrs  presented a grueling, visceral overwhelming objection mixed with bleak torture that ends in hardship, heartache, and depressing effect lasting in agonizing turmoil both for the film and the viewers. The audience suffers through the event more as victim than as viewers and gives them exhausting in exchange for their shock and awe, this redo, never comes close to this level, and limits itself with a religious examination with the minimalist psychological undertones. A large difference between the two version, and Pascal’s never spells out the story for the audience while the 2015’s does reference the points, and likely too much. Although, in horror history it is not the first time a film goes to excessive means to explain how something works, such as in paranormal films – EVPs. In addition, the remake recycle loop has become a major discontent for many, and while referring to it as an improvement in terms of a remodel, films carry a deeper essence to them regarding a movie a mere object, infringes on the brand loyalty to many genres fans. However, some insist the relevance to evolving styles and tastes, such as retrofit, that change with passing decades, though some likely never see a remake come their way, for example Schindler’s List . Nevertheless, for many of the reboots have caused heartache with such fiascos as Psycho  and Friday the 13th  a few wins out, namely Dawn of the Dead .
The overall feel to the movie, whimpers itself to sleep, never trying to design a new path, and suggests a hint of distaste for the antics, the exposure of the movie provides an appalling mess, and rudimentary violence to actual damnation. While the movie doesn’t revisit the torture-porn era, which many believe was a reinvention of the exploitative market of the 70s; it lacks the conviction of the full onslaught of horrors, especially in the religious sub-genre. The suffering and martyrdom of the religious convictions brings into question of the implications of the cult though none are ever cited, explore, or exposed in any manner, and left untold as not to offend the viewers with any thought provoking question avoiding the insensitive on the topic. Goetz’s movie becomes an awkward pacing creature, upbeat tempo and then dreading finishing out the storyline and with editing struggling to fix continuity issues.
One hoped that the remake would have taken a more philosophical horror film, a sub-genre rarely touched, or following into that of Stigmata , sadly, none of it happens, instead the movie plays a heavily watered down version a disappointment since Anchor Bay Entertainment the distribution company for the movie, holds a higher horror standard for the genre. The packaging of the movie as “reimaging” doesn’t work and leaves many scratching their heads wondering when the redoing, remaking, rehashing, reconfiguring or whatever else it shall come to pass, this flick, not worth the purchase price, rental only.
This review was originally published on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website in February 2016.
TAGLINE: The Ultimate Horror Movie
IMDb Rating: 4.0/10
Baron’s Rating: 4.0/10