Martyrs (2008) is a French psychological slasher horror movie directed by Pascal Laugier. Considering the level of violence depicted in the film, Martyrs is categorized as a new example of new era French horror films similar to Inside (2007).
The film is about a traumatized girl Lucie and her best friend Anna. Victims of child abuse, both embark on vengeance against a religious organization in search of vengeance. In its view, torturing people to the brink of death can lead to a state where afterlife answers can be found.
Martyrs (2008) Details Plot Explanation
* * * Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen the movie yet, turn back now! * * *
Lucie in 1971
A young girl named Lucie escapes from an abandoned slaughterhouse. More than a year has passed since she was imprisoned there and tortured.
The police tried to trace the suspects, but they were unable to do so. However, the motive for torturing remains unclear.
Lucie is sent to an orphanage. At that place, she becomes friends with another orphan girl named Anna.
Every night Lucie faces a ghostly woman spirit, and Anna is also aware of her situation. She supports Lucie whenever she can.
15 years later – the revenge
An average family hanging out at their dining table. They are Belfonds, Gabrielle, and their son and daughter.
Lucie arrives there and without any notice executes them with a shotgun. Next, she contacts Anna and informs her what she has done. Conferring on Lucie 15 years, earlier this family was responsible for torture and now she gets revenge.
Anna comes to the place and becomes so terrible. Because deep inside her heart, Anna believes the family was innocent. But Anna still wants to support Lucie to redeem her from murder accuse. Thus, she buried the dead bodies in the backyard.
Lucie starts haunting her disfigured woman spirit and at a point, she committed suicide.
The mysterious chamber
The next day, Anna becomes shocked when finds a deep chamber inside the house. She enters the chamber and goes inside down. Towards the bottom there she discovers another hidden basement. But this is locked.
She manages to find the key, opens the door, and enters the room. There is a woman tied to a chair, who is beaten so violently.
Instantly Anna realizes that Lucie was right.
The girl’s name is Sarah. She confirms that she was captured and tortured by Belfonds family. After a while, Sarah brutally starts cutting her arms with a knife.
The Cult Society
At that moment a group of armed people arrive at the place and capture Anna.
A leader introduced herself as Mademoiselle. She explains to Anna the whole scenario.
Mademoiselle is a part of a large hidden philosophical cult society that wants to reveal the secret of the afterlife. Therefore, they seized people and started experiments on them. A systematic process of torturing heads them to the near-death level with a conscious mind. At the last stage, they span the border of life and step into the death realm. But as they are in a conscious stage so they can also communicate with this world’s people.
Society called these people ‘Martyrs’.
Even now, no martyrs were qualified to complete the test. But Sarah was the closest one, but it was ruined by Anna and it makes Mademoiselle so angry.
The experiment for the afterlife
The group takes on Anna as the latest subject.
Anna entered the final stage after being beaten and humiliated for a period of time. She then survives the procedure of being flayed alive, which represents the ultimate stage of connecting the two worlds. They called it ‘Euphoric’.
Mademoiselle arrives and Anna whispers to her.
The members of the society gathered at the house to hear Anna’s insights. Mademoiselle and others wait for the arrival of other members.
Mademoiselle has locked herself in a room, and her assistant is waiting outside of the door. Mademoiselle asks her assistant from the locked room if he can imagine what comes afterlife.
He replied no.
Then Mademoiselle says, “keep doubting.” And shoot at her dead with a gun.
The movie ends with a shot of Anna lying on a table in a catatonic state. Intertitles inform viewers that ‘martyr’ is Greek for ‘witness’.
Why that Sarah cut her hand off?
Sarah starts imagining things like Lucie as a result of all the torture. For Lucie, it was the creature. For Sarah, she imagined that she was covered in cockroaches.
After a while, she prefers to cut off her skin and hands rather than have them roam on her. It is as if inner fears become real.
What did Anna whisper to Mademoiselle?
The ending is ambiguous, no one knows exactly what Anna whispers. But there are many hints which help to guess.
Since Mademoiselle committed suicide after hearing the whisper then there are main two possibilities raised.
- The whisper hinted at something so wonderful that she felt comfortable getting there asap, so she took her own life.
- The whispered secret was more along the lines of “there is no afterlife, you’ve been wasting your life killing people, you crazy old f***!” The old woman ended up committing suicide.
Another possibility is that Anna told Mademoiselle what she was seeing. Perhaps they were memories from the past. In her afterlife, she did not see any kind of afterlife, but rather she envisioned her memories, which is where she was happy.
Good points of the movie
- The unique plot of Martyrs makes it a good movie for me. But others may not like it for various reasons.
- There are some very good acting and make-up effects in it.
- The main two characters Lucie and Anna are well developed which creates chemistry with the viewers.
Bad points of the movie
- THIS MOVIE IS NOT FOR THE WEAK-HEARTED PEOPLE.
- There is a lot of torture porn in this slow-burning film, which is brutal, nasty, and graphic.
- The film does not directly harm viewers psychologically, but it promotes clinically mental imbalance, which is not my type of film.
- Unsatisfying ending. However, it doesn’t matter because many good movies use that technique. But the worst part is, when I forcedly watched torturing a human (martyr or test subject) then I expected a lot good ending rather than what I got.
Original Title Martyrs
Genre Gore/ Psychological/ Horror
Runtime 1hr 39min
Original Language French
Directed & Written by Pascal Laugier
Tagline They haven’t finished being alive.
Release date September 3, 2008 (France)
Origin Country France, Canada
Official Website Martyrs (2008) Website
Awards 07 Wins, 09 Nominations
Cast of Characters
Though Martyrs is not for everyone’s taste but it has the potential to enjoy as a different type of horror film. The ending makes you think about it even after the movie is over.