The remake that set message boards and internet comment sections on fire has officially hit VOD. Our formal review of Martyrs (2016) was done by Spencer White – a man who had never seen the original. You see, many of us (myself included) found it impossible to separate our feelings of the original from the “re-imagining” and could simply not be trusted to provide an unbiased opinion. But now that the film is available to the general public – it’s time to let our staff’s opinions fly:

Well it has finally happened. The greatest tragedy to ever befall the horror genre is upon us! Of course I’m sarcastically referring to the Martyrs remake. Now I won’t argue that there really isn’t a NEED to remake a 2008 film, but it happened. What we got wasn’t even that bad of a film. The Goetz brothers really know how to shoot a film, and the actors hold their own. The biggest shortcoming is the script, which isn’t unusual with American remakes. We as the horror community really need to stop playing the role of petulant child, taking our toys and going home. That’s not to say we should accept subpar products, but the Martyrs remake isn’t one of those.
The 2008 Martyrs was a film that felt like three separate films in one, each act tonally different from the rest. The first two acts were fantastic, while the third act felt too pretentious. The pacing slowed to a crawl, and we were forced to be complicit in a very uncomfortable stretch of torture that lasted for at least 15 minutes. Of course, this was the point, and it served a greater purpose to the overall message of the film. But the ambiguous explanation at the end never really packed the emotional punch necessary to save the drastic departure from its exhilarating first two-thirds. We never really knew Anna and Lucy either, though the competent performances by Jampanoi and Alaoui made us root for them regardless.

It’s that particular act that screenwriter Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) sought to change. Liberties are taken with the lead characters as he attempts to explore Anna and Lucy’s friendship and garner more emotional investment. The Goetz brothers deliver smoother transitions between acts, and the film feels more whole as a result. Unfortunately, Smith and the Goetz brothers don’t diverge their reimaging far enough. The violence that was so polarizing in the original does exist, but due to the more consistent pacing it’s not lingered upon. In the end, the remake doesn’t change enough of the story to complement their initial intentions – nor does it pack the same punch of the original. It’s not a bad film by any means, but its attempt to inject American heartstrings does feel watered down. It’s not memorable or controversial enough to elicit the hate and vitriol aimed at it by devout fans, either.

I was skeptical about the Martyrs remake like everyone else, but I tried my damnedest to go into it with an open mind. I love the the original, but I was open to a new take on it from a pair of directors whose previous movie I enjoyed.

The first act was fine, albeit pretty close to the source material. There were some interesting shots that enhanced things and kept me interested. The second act is where things started to go in the wrong direction in my opinion. It still kept generally in line with the original, but in a more diluted fashion, and in the third act, things pretty much fell apart.

The movie held onto the basic premise of the original, but veered in some directions that not only hurt the narrative, but just didn’t make a lot of sense at times. I don’t mind that they tried something different. It’s just that what they tried didn’t quite work.

As expected, the brutality was significantly toned down, and in some cases that might not be a deal breaker, but it’s kind of an important part of the original Martyrs. It serves the narrative. It’s visceral and makes you feel what the characters are feeling, which is important for the overall goal of what the villains are trying to achieve and what the characters are enduring. If you don’t feel it, it’s hard to care. And you’re really supposed to care here.

The diluted brutality was far from the only problem and was not even the biggest problem. I think the screenplay is at most fault.

For me personally, the score of the original film contributed significantly to its power, but the remake’s score is instantly forgettable. That’s not to say that it’s bad. It just doesn’t have that power, and ultimately, I’d say the same thing for the movie as a whole. It’s not necessarily bad, it just doesn’t have the power. This isn’t going to stay with people the way Martyrs is supposed to stay with people.

Either way, I’m still looking forward to more original projects from the Goetz brothers.

I feel like the giant backlash is unwarranted for this film, I’d say a good 70% of the people complaining haven’t seen it. Has the gore been dialed down? Yes. Has the story been told before? Yes. If this movie had a different title would it have gotten a greater response? Yes, I think so. I am a huge fan of the original French film so I was more intrigued than worried when I caught wind a remake was coming around. It’s very hard to capture the lightning in a bottle and the wave of new movies the original did. But I wasn’t going into this expecting a groundbreaking film. Give the Goetz brothers a chance, because they took a huge risk and that alone makes it worth the watch, just imagine the movie was under a different title. I’d say solid 5/10. Easily rentable. And hey if you enjoy it, good for you for sifting through the rage online.
As one of the few staff members here at Modern Horrors who hasn’t seen the original Martyrs I was excited to take this remake in as a stand alone movie, untethered from the anchor of the original cult classic. With that said, Martyrs is a strange movie to pin down. It’s beautifully shot, and well performed, but ultimately its screenplay falters and creates an uneven movie that could’ve benefited from tighter editing in post production. For example, the pacing felt so off that halfway through the movie I got the distinct impression the story was winding down, that’s a deadly sin in film, and one that could’ve been avoided had we gotten a bit more build up leading to the confrontation that unspools as revenge is exacted.

My favorite thing about Martyrs is how well shot it is. It’s downright gorgeous at times, especially when we go back to the foster home, Spencer described it as dreamlike and I couldn’t have said it better myself. I also think he was on point about Martyrs not knowing what it wants to be and because of that it sort of stumbles along until something interesting happens. Thankfully, interesting moments do occur often enough to be an entertaining movie, but overall there are just too many weak points for me to really love it. In the end, Martyrs succeeds as a film on its own, but personally it’s only made me that much more curious about the original it’s based on

The first time I saw Martyrs (2008), I found it to be laborious. I simply couldn’t understand what everyone saw in it. Granted, this was a time  in my life when I was in a drunken stopper about 98% of the time, so I decided to watch it again with a clear head several months later — holy shit — I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a completely different experience.

The original film had grit and emotion that I hadn’t seen in many genre releases. Many characterize it as a torture film (including the Goetz Brothers), but I simply see that as a necessary byproduct of the final act. It’s interesting how wildly opinions vary here. I find the ending of Martyrs (2008) to be incredibly thought provoking and done with an air of class that more than balances out the grotesque imagery found earlier in the film. It’s here that the 2016 “re-imagining” falters.

Aside from having an unusually warm color palette in the outdoor scenes – it’s quite attractive. While I find the Goetz Brothers previous work, SCENIC ROUTE, to be superior on almost every level, it’s not a poorly constructed film. The problem is its heart… or maybe where the heart is located. The original film rips your heart out of your chest and leaves you with a feeling of utter nihilism before the big “moment” As a viewer, you almost go through the same progression as Lucy. But in 2016, the heart is nurtured and cared for. We build more feeling around our leading ladies in an attempt to make it mean something later. I’m not saying that’s a bad approach, but I personally appreciate being dropped into a scenario and learning my way around the characters on my own. I don’t need nurturing.

There’s ultimately nothing wrong with the remake. It’s arguably more appropriate for many audiences. But for us, the diehards of the population – it’s hard to recommend it over something that is still readily available and far more rewarding.