So, remakes are pretty much the worst. We can all agree on that, right guys? I mean there are like 2 or 3 good ones, but for every The Thing or The Ring, there are a hundred garbage versions of stuff nobody cared about in the first place. Maybe the key is to only remake horror movies that rhyme with The Thing? Something to think about, I guess. Anyway, they apparently re-made Martyrs. Nobody knew they were making it… it just kind of showed up one day and bummed everyone out, like a crack baby on the doorstep of a church. I realize some of you might not have seen Martyrs, so before you read any further, go watch it. It’s not for everyone, but it’s actually one of my favorite movies, and in order to explain how badly the remake is at existing, I’m going to need to spoil the fuck out of the original. So stop here, because you really need to go into that movie with a clean slate. Seriously. You should know LITERALLY nothing about it before watching it.
Ok, so the original Martyrs is a particularly brutal French horror film that centers on two orphans; Ana & Lucie. As a small child, Lucie was kept captive and savagely tortured until she escaped and found her way to the orphanage where Ana was living. Ana and Lucie formed a friendship, and Ana was the only one to care for Lucie after a (possible) monster attacked her in her sleep. Ana was always there for Lucie, and sacrificed much of her life, even outside of the orphanage, both trying to keep Lucie out of trouble, and caring for her when trouble found her. It was honestly a very complicated and codependent relationship, where both got some form of validation from the other’s existence… subtext you don’t normally get from horror films. Anyway, we cut to 10 years later, and Lucie blows away a random family with a shotgun. She calls Ana, telling her that she finally found the people that tortured her as a kid, and wiped them out. Ana is conflicted, because Lucie is literally the only person in the world who cares about her, but it’s entirely likely that she’s totally batshit insane. Ana comes to the rescue, and tends to Lucie’s wounds from another monster attack, which she was certain would stop after she punished her torturers. Stuff happens, and Ana is caught helping a survivor of the massacre. Lucie, having discovered that the only person she thought understood her actually doubted her sanity, starts hurting herself, revealing the “monster” to be self harm based on the guilt over leaving a woman to be tortured as she escaped as a child. Lucie takes her own life, realizing that this cycle will never stop, and no one believes in her. Then the movie takes a complete fucking left turn.
Ana starts cleaning up the aftermath, and notices a hidden trap door. She goes down the proverbial rabbit hole, and discovers an underground torture chamber, complete with a starved and beaten woman with a metal face covering literally stapled to her skull. She realizes that Lucie was right. This WAS the family that brutally tortured her as a child. Being the caregiver that she is, she tries to help this deformed husk of a person until she starts to attack her. Ana is saved by an unknown person shooting the poor creature in the head. The gunman is a accompanied by an elderly woman who orders that Ana be taken down to the torture chamber, where she explains their cause. They belong to an organization that believed that by becoming a martyr through great physical sacrifice, that you could see beyond this world, and look into the afterlife. They have been bringing people to the brink of death for decades, hoping that every victim would transcend this world and be able to answer the question of what lies beyond. Then the next 20 minutes of the movie is Ana being starved, beaten, and ultimately flayed, until she finally reaches that moment. She is able to tell the woman what she saw before she finally passes. The old woman later asks her right hand man if he ever doubts the existence of the afterlife. She tells him to keep doubting before taking her own life, never revealing what Ana told her in her transcendent state. The end. Pretty fucked up movie, right? But it also has a point. It is a movie that is unjustly dismissed as torture porn. It’s not for everyone, but the people that love it REALLY fucking love it. Then we have the remake…
So the first 20 minutes or so of the remake are basically a less visually interesting shot for shot version of the original. We start seeing some pretty major differences right around the point where Lucie kills herself. In the remake, Lucie just hurts herself really bad by jumping out a 2nd story window. She is still alive when Ana discovers the truth about the dead family and their secret torture society. Ana gets to apologize. This is major bullshit alarm #1. Part of the tragedy of the original is that Ana has to live with this guilt of not believing this story, and ultimately losing the person in the world closest to her because of it. Here, she gets to wipe all that away. It’s a baffling decision.
So, the next major issue we have is that instead of finding a deformed, tortured woman in the dungeon, Ana finds a spunky little girl showing absolutely no signs of physical abuse. I can’t for the life of me think of any reason for this, other than to tie in to the shitty 3rd act, and to tone down on some of the more shocking elements present in the original. I’ll be going into more detail on both of these points later, but be aware that it comes across as a major cop out, and really cheapens the impact of events that were ESSENTIAL to the plot of the original. From here, Ana is unable to free the girl, and when she goes back upstairs, the clean up crew arrives and discovers Lucie still alive.
They tell Ana the whole thing about learning what’s in the afterlife, and take Lucie back down to be tortured. The old woman orders her people to bury Ana alive in the backyard to cover all their tracks. Ana escapes, and returns to the chamber to free Lucie, but comes across the little girl. She frees her this time, and sends her off to get help. Somewhere along the way, she gets a gun, and murders everyone she sees until she can find Lucie. By this point, they have skinned her a little bit. Like they took a patch off her back. Don’t get me wrong… that would still totally ruin my week. But the emotional and visceral impact of seeing a woman spread out with every bit of skin, save for her face, peeled from her body is much greater than having a bit off of her back. So, the old lady is there with Lucie when Ana returns, waiting to hear what she’s seen of the other world. What happens next is dumb to the point of where it’s gonna sound like I’m making this up, but it’s ACTUALLY a thing that happens in the movie. The old lady says “i need to hear what happens in the afterlife!” Ana pulls her gun out, replies “find out for yourself!”, and shoots her in the fucking face. Yeah, it’s pretty dumb you guys. Anyway, the police show up, and Ana holds Lucie until we fade out. The end.
So, we have some problems here. First and foremost, if you’re going to make a neutered, toothless version of this movie, what is the point of doing a remake at all? It’s not like it had a massive fandom clamoring for it. The people that hadn’t heard of it will think this is just a dumb movie with a garbage ending, and the people who know the movie will be pretty angry with the fact it exists at all. I’m really not sure of the logic of adding a little kid, and ending it with an action movie one liner. This should NOT be a crowd pleasing movie. It’s supposed to make you feel very dirty even after watching it. Everything unique in terms of its visuals or narrative structure was dumbed down and butchered. The original stays with you. It has an ending you’re forced to think about, and brutal imagery that you can’t easily forget. The remake commits the greatest sin a movie can… is boring and forgettable. Forget it exists. This isn’t me being a snob. It’s me trying to spare you a particularly frustrating way to spend an afternoon. Watch the original and when it comes to remakes, keep doubting.