Avoid, if you can, reading anything about Martyrs before viewing--this ultra-intense Canadian-French shocker benefits from discovering its horrors cold. In that spirit, we''ll be discreet, except to note that only the most hardcore patrons of 21st-century torture cinema need apply for this one. A prologue depicts the escape of a child from an apparent house of enslavement, and one thinks of notorious real-life cases of people keeping children locked away in basements. But writer-director Pascal Laugier has a larger idea in mind, which we begin to discern when the story skips ahead 15 years. The kidnapped girl, now played by Mylene Jampanoi, is bent on a violent rampage of her own; her lifelong friend and minder (Morjana Alaoui) comes upon a bloody scene too late. The film takes too long to get to the next revelation, but when it does, a series of secret chambers begins to unfold in the narrative, and you might just feel your head spinning (if not your gorge rising). It would be inaccurate to call this pleasant, or even entertaining, but Laugier does at least have a serious purpose and some interesting ideas. The horrifying images he creates, however, raise the question of directorial judgment gone haywire. Give him credit, though: the DVD of Martyrs includes a brief introduction by Laugier in which he (good-humoredly) apologizes for the movie--fair warning for the faint of heart. --Robert Horton
Lucie, a 10 year old girl, is found wandering in the streets, bruised and bloodied. Unable to say who did this to her, or why, she is placed in a hospital where she meets Anna, another young girl who had been abused. Fifteen years later, with Anna s help, Lucie sets out to get revenge on her attackers. When she believes she has found the couple who abused her, she confronts them ...and that is when the terror truly begins.
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