Martyrs – Torture Porn, But, Like, Good…

Unsurprisingly, ‘torture porn’ is one of the most divisive terms in film-making. For some it’s merely the next stage in the evolution of horror, a new way to shock and horrify. For others it’s the route to all evil, a cancer capable of corrupting impressionable minds.

Me? I don’t really give a shit – I’m confident enough in my own moral code not to imprison my next door neighbour and feed him his own toes just because I’ve seen ‘Saw’. In fact, all that concerns me is if great movies get dismissed as mere vulgarity by right-wing, Daily Mail reading moral zealots who think they can tell me what to watch…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNM9kKo4JNU

The story of two young women seeking vengeance for the people who abused them as children; make no mistake, ‘Martyrs’ won’t be to everyone’s tastes – but it certainly is a great film. Like other recent French Horror films (two of the best being 2007’s Inside and Frontier(s)), it’s almost boundary breaking in its gruesomeness. Yet where it differs from those two movies – and indeed ‘Hostel’, ‘Mum & Dad’, et al – is that there’s a story at the dark heart of the movie worthy of mass enjoyment. It’s compelling and original and touching and strange and… if you can get past the violence, the blood, the nastiness… well, let’s just say that ‘Martyrs’ might just be the ‘Godfather’ of torture porn.

Written and directed by Pascal Laugier, with excellent performances on display throughout (I found myself rooting for Morjana Alaoui in the lead role and sympathising with Mylene Jampanoi), it’s upsetting that there are those who would see the film resigned to cult status. The film received a rare 18+ rating in France, severely limiting its distribution opportunities, despite an unsuccessful appeal lodged by its producers.

The French Society Of Film Directors (SRF) also asked The Ministry Of Culture to re-examine the decision remarking that “this is the first time a French genre film has been threatened with such a rating”, while the Union Of Film Journalists adopted the same position, claiming censorship – an accusation backed up by the strange decision not to allow the films makers to take the stand and defend their work at the hearing that enforced the rating.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but I will tell you that ‘Martyrs’ is the best, most unique and involving horror film I’ve seen in an age. Fingers crossed once, twice, thrice, I can only hope this months DVD and Blueray release will help popularise this great movie. If you’re a fan of challenging cinema, you should rent ‘Martyrs’ yourself; it’s a film that should be seen, and a kick in the eye for censorship if nothing else…