Martyrs (Blu-ray) (2008)

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Released 9-Dec-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Teaser Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 95:17 (Case: 99)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Pascal Laugier
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Morjana Alaoui
Mylène Jampanoï
Catherine Bégin
Robert Toupin
Patricia Tulasne
Juliette Gosselin
Xavier Dolan
Isabelle Chasse
Emilie Miskdjian
Mike Chute
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $39.95 Music Alex Cortés
Willie Cortés


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The genre of torture-porn made popular by Hostel and Saw reaches a new low with the confronting French film,Martyrs. Although Martyrs starts well as a psychological thriller, and there is much to admire in the first half of the film, sadly Martyrs lowers itself through its onscreen sadistic and graphic depravity and ugly abuse into being a gross-out endurance test. An ultimately disgusting and depressing film, seemingly designed to extinguish any hope in the human spirit, I would be concerned for anyone who enjoys Martyrs, or who could watch it without being disturbed. Martyrs is ultimately an overly pretentious and nauseating film, with none of the cleverness or genuine character-driven plot that made Hostel so successful.

     As a long-time fan of horror films from the early camp British frolics to the US hard-core classics, I've watched and enjoyed the continued development of the horror genre - apart from the recent glut of Twilight romantic vampire films aimed at the female teen market, and the spate of antiseptic remakes that roll off the Hollywood assembly line to satisfy the US PG-13 Horror market. Recently horror fans have been blessed with a number of great foreign influences, at first through Hollywood-remakes and then through the wide release of their subtitled originals, such as the wave of Japanese supernatural thrillers that gained popularity from the 1990s. But, surprisingly, most recently it has been France that has been the most successful in the horror stakes, producing a series of confronting horror films such as Inside, Themand Switchblade Romance. Now perhaps the most controversial of these is Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs.

     Martyrs opens with a young girl in terrible condition, desperately running away from what looks like an abandoned and sinister building. Now rescued, we find out that the girl, named Lucie, has been missing for months. Despite her battered physical appearance, there is no sign of any sexual abuse and the reason for her abduction and imprisonment remains a mystery. We then jump forward to present day suburbia, to a familiar scene of a typical family happily enjoying lunch together .... but to reveal any more of the plot is to rob the film of its considerable, and truly shocking, visceral impact.

     Martyrs not only has clearly defined, discrete acts, but even seems to change horror sub-genre styles throughout. There is much to admire in the first half of the film as we are taken on a twisted and at times confusing and confronting journey as Laugier expertly taunts our sympathy for the protagonist and our desire to identify with her character. The themes of guilt and revenge are explored through a violent, psychotic frame and the final section of the film presents audiences with a genuinely weird metaphysical twist. I wonder, however, if this plot twist is merely a writer's contrivance to justify the orgy of sadism we have been victimised with? Indeed, sadly, much of the last third of the film is so gruesomely gross that any genuine message or thought is lost in the sadistic depravity of cruelty, suffering and abuse wallowed in onscreen.

     While many have praised Martyrs as being "original", I've had enough of horror films with victims tied up in chairs in torture chambers. Furthermore, when the absurd plot is explained, Martyrs loses all credulity and credibility. Indeed, Martyrs joins Twilight and Paranormal Activity as being one of the most over-hyped and overrated horror films of recent years. That noted, Martyrs make up effects are great, there are many moments of genuine tension, some great boo-scares, and the acting by the two female leads, Mylène Jampanoï and Morjana Alaoui, in what would have been very emotionally and physically demanding roles is excellent.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Martyrs is a very gritty film, which was shot on a low budget on the cheaper Super 16 film format. This has caused a slight loss of detail compared to other recent films and a lot of film grain is noticeable throughout. That noted, this BD transfer captures what I imagine was the filmmaker's intended vision.

     The transfer is presented in high definition, but the resolution is only 1080i, not 1080p. It has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression and is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.

     As mentioned above, this is a low-budget film and also, perhaps for artistic purposes, there is a high amount of film grain visible. The film's colour palette is purposely subdued and the de-saturated look adds a coldness to the film that suits its mood well. The transfer struggles with black level and shadow detail at times, but again I attribute this not to the transfer but to the limitations of the Super 16 film source material.

     The film is presented in French with English subtitles. I cannot judge how accurate they are.

     The feature is relatively short, and divided into 12 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio for Martyrs is also limited, but more than reasonable considering the film's budget and the claustrophobic nature of the story.

     The only audio option is French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The French dialogue seems quite clear, and overall the sound fares a lot better than the picture.

     The music for Martyrs is provided by the band Seppuku Paradigm, and combines various styles and adds to the film's tension. This approach suits the film well, but the score itself is not particularly memorable.

     The surround channels do provide some ambience and the film's score is often piped to the rears as well. There is some LFE activity, but again this limited approach suits the film's story well.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This BD comes with only a few extras.

Floating Pop-Up Menu

     As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing.

Trailer

     Beautiful (2:17)

Photo Gallery

     A collection of photographic stills from the film's production.

Teaser Trailers

     A collection of three teaser trailers for Martyrs.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Martyrs has been released in Europe and the UK, but (at time of writing) does not yet appear to be released on BD in the US. Even though the UK and Australia share the same BD region, their disc has more extras including a making-of featurette, an interview with the film's writer and director Pascal Laugier, and an interview with the SFX/make-up artist Benoit Lestang.

Summary

     Overly pretentious, Martyrs starts well as a tense psychological thriller but lowers itself through gross-out sadism into being a torture-porn endurance test.

     The video quality is reasonable.

     The audio quality is also reasonable.

     The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSamsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)
SpeakersSamsung

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
UK disc -
Another PAL master? - Shane A
Couldn't disagree more -
This film is just ghastly -
I'm with Pearce... -
Actually, anonymous... -