Martyrs (film)

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Martyrs tp01.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Pascal Laugier
Produced by Richard Grandpierre
Simon Trottier
Written by Pascal Laugier
Starring Morjana Alaoui
Mylène Jampanoï
Music by Seppuku Paradigm
Cinematography Stéphane Martin
Nathalie Moliavko-Visotzky
Edited by Sébastien Prangère
Wild Bunch
TCB Film
Distributed by Wild Bunch (France)
The Weinstein Company (USA)
Release dates
  • May 2008 (2008-05) (Cannes Film Festival)
  • 3 September 2008 (2008-09-03) (France)
  • 18 October 2008 (2008-10-18) (Screamfest)
Running time
94 minutes
Country France
Language French
Budget 2.8 million[1]
Box office $1,149,138[2]

Martyrs is a 2008 horror film written and directed by Pascal Laugier. It was first screened during the 2008 Cannes Film Festival at the Marché du Film, and the film's French release was on 3 September 2008. The American rights for the film were purchased by the Weinstein Company and the company was responsible for the release of the DVD in April 2009.

The film has been associated with the New French Extremity movement.[3]


The film begins with a young girl, Lucie Jurin, as she escapes from a disused abattoir where she has been imprisoned and physically abused for a long period of time. No signs of sexual abuse are identified, and the perpetrators and their motivations remain a mystery. Lucie is placed in an orphanage, where she is befriended by a young girl named Anna Assaoui. Anna soon discovers that Lucie believes that she is constantly being terrorized by a ghoulish creature; a horrible, disfigured, emaciated woman.

Fifteen years later, Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) bursts into the home of an apparently normal family, the Belfonds -- Gabrielle, her husband, and their children Antoine and Marie -- and seemingly kills them all with a shotgun. Elsewhere, Anna (Morjana Alaoui) waits in a remote location to hear from Lucie, with whom she has been in a romantic relationship for years. Although Anna knows that Lucie believes that Gabrielle and her husband are the people responsible for her childhood abuse, she had thought Lucie only intended to keep them under surveillance and is horrified when Lucie calls her to tell her that she has killed them. Upon arriving, Anna is appalled by the carnage, and worries that Lucie may have killed the wrong people. Anna discovers that Gabrielle is still alive and tries to help her escape. Unfortunately, the two are discovered by Lucie, who bludgeons Gabrielle to death. Lucie is again attacked by the scarred creature, but Anna only sees Lucie hurting herself; the 'creature' is nothing more than a psychological manifestation of Lucie's guilt for leaving behind another girl who was also imprisoned and tortured with her as a child. Lucie tells the apparition that she killed its tormentors and that it can rest, but it has no effect. Lucie finally realizes that her insanity will never leave her and slits her throat. She dies in Anna's arms.[4]

The next day, a melancholy Anna, still at the family's house, telephones her mother, from whom she has been estranged for two years, in part due to her mother's low opinion of Lucie; their conversation implies that Anna suffered abuse from her parents as a child. Anna notices a hidden passage and discovers a secret underground chamber. Imprisoned within is a horribly tortured woman, Sarah Dutreuil, covered in scars, with strange metal contraptions attached to her head and lower body, proving that Lucie was right about the family's involvement in torture. Despite the risk, Anna helps Sarah and cleans her wounds, but a group of strangers arrive and shoot Sarah dead. Captured, Anna meets their leader, an elderly lady referred to only as Mademoiselle. While her underlings bury the Belfonds, Lucie and Sarah, Mademoiselle explains that she belongs to a secret philosophical society seeking to discover the secrets of the afterlife through the creation of "martyrs". She also explains that their society was responsible for Lucie's childhood kidnapping, as she was one of their earlier test subjects, and Gabrielle Belfond was her primary torturer. Their experiments inflict systematic acts of torture upon young women in the belief that their suffering will result in a transcendental insight into the world beyond this one. So far, all of their attempts have failed, and they have only created "victims."

As a result of her selfless actions of refusing to desert Lucie and of helping Sarah, Anna becomes the group's latest subject and is imprisoned in a chamber, just as Lucie was years before. After a period, during which she is repeatedly beaten and degraded, Anna hallucinates a conversation with Lucie, who tells her to "let go" so she won't be afraid any more. Soon after, Anna is told she has progressed further than any other test subject, and has reached the "final stage" and will suffer no more. Anna is taken to a surgeon and is flayed alive. She survives the procedure, entering a state that is described as being "euphoric" and likened to achieving transcendence. Mademoiselle arrives, eager to speak to Anna about her experience. Anna turns to her and whispers into her ear.

Members of the society gather at the house to learn of the insights Anna shared with Mademoiselle. During his welcome speech, Mademoiselle's assistant, Etienne, mentions that there have been only four previous martyrs, all of whom died before imparting information. Later, while Mademoiselle prepares herself, Etienne asks her if what Anna said was clear and precise. Mademoiselle confirms that there is no room for interpretation, then asks him if he could imagine what comes after death. When he says no, she tells him to "keep doubting" and places a revolver in her mouth and shoots herself, implying that what Anna told her was too terrible for her to live with. An intertitle informs the audience that "martyr" is Greek for "witness", followed by the last shot of the film before it cuts to black; a slow zoom into the face of the skinned Anna accompanied by an eerie chorus of voices.


Lead actresses Mylène Jampanoï and Morjana Alaoui.

Between them, Anna and Lucie share the name of Anna Jurin, the main character in Laugier's film Saint Ange.


Director Pascal Laugier.

Pascal Laugier said that "the film was rejected by all the big French studios, by a lot of actresses, too. […] The film was really supported by Canal+, the only television channel in France that still finances some unusual projects". He also comments that the main difficulty other than the technical issues such as special effects was to keep the actresses crying all the time, and that was too demanding.[5]


The film was categorized as a new example of new era French horror films akin to Inside with regard to the level of violence it depicts.[5][6] The film ranking website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 69% of the audience liked the film, with an average rating of 3.6/5, while 52% of critics had given the film positive reviews, based upon a sample of 27.[7] Todd Brown at Twitch called it "without a doubt the single most divisive film to screen in the Cannes Marché Du Film this year",[8] while Ryan Rotten at claims that the film "is the new yard stick against which all forms of extreme genre films should be measured against".[5] In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films.[9] Martyrs placed at number 31 on their top 100 list.[10]

The french Commission de Classification des Oeuvres Cinématographiques rated the film 18+ (unsuitable for children under 18 or forbidden in cinemas for under 18) which the producers of the film appealed.[11][12] As a last resort, the French Society of Film Directors (SRF) asked the French ministry of culture to examine the decision, remarking that "this is the first time a French genre film has been threatened with such a rating". The Union of Film Journalists has adopted the same position as the SRF, claiming censorship.[13] The Minister of Culture Christine Albanel eventually asked the Commission of Classification to change its rating, which was done in July 2008. Martyrs was finally rated 16+. [14]


Main article: Martyrs (2015 film)

In 2008 original director Pascal Laugier confirmed in an interview that he was in the middle of negotiating the rights for Martyrs to be remade in America.[15] It was to be directed by Daniel Stamm, director of The Last Exorcism, and written by Mark L. Smith, writer of Vacancy as well as from the producers of Twilight. The producer of the film said he would like Twilight actress Kristen Stewart for the film,[16] though her presence in the film was later denied by Stamm.[17][18] Stamm said "[The original film] is very nihilistic. The American approach [that I'm looking at] would go through all that darkness but then give a glimmer of hope. You don't have to shoot yourself when it's over."[17]

In a 2014 interview, Stamm revealed he had left the project after the budget had been reduced, stating, "I think they're now back to making the movie for like $1 million, really low budget, which I think you could almost do, it's just there's this philosophy in Hollywood that you can never go back budget-wise. As a filmmaker you are judged by that. And then there's also this concept I was unaware of called plateauing, where if you're a filmmaker who makes two movies in the same budget bracket, that becomes your thing. You are the guy for the $3 million movie, and then that's all you do. And so my agents wouldn't let me do the $1 million movie, because then that's it for you, you'll supposedly never get that bigger budget". [19]

In February 2015 the new productions company's Blumhouse Productions and The Safran Company announced that the movie was already filmed and that the Goetz Brothers, Michael and Kevin, had directed.[20] In the leads stars Bailey Noble, Troian Bellisario, Kate Burton and Blake Robbins.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lemercier, Fabien (13 February 2007). "Martyrs: A journey into the heart of darkness". Cineuropa. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Martyrs (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Griffiths, Lee (18 March 2009). "Martyrs (2008) Film Review". Eye For Film. Eye For Film. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Northlander interviews MARTYRS' Pascal Laugier - and he spills about his HELLRAISER remake!!". Ain't It Cool News. Ain't It Cool, Inc. 28 December 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Rotten, Ryan (23 June 2008). "Exclusive Interview: Martyrs Director Pascal Laugier". Retrieved 25 June 2008. 
  6. ^ Mr. Disgusting. "Martyrs". Retrieved 27 June 2008. 
  7. ^ "Martyrs - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  8. ^ Brown, Todd (3 June 2008). "Pascal Laugier's Martyrs Hit With 18+ Rating in France". Twitch Film. Retrieved 25 June 2008. 
  9. ^ "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  10. ^ CC. "The 100 best horror films: the list". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Two teasers for Pascal Laugier's French horror flick Martyrs". 12 June 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2008. 
  12. ^ "Les news de : Martyrs". Première. 3 June 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2008. 
  13. ^ Lemercier, Fabien (2 June 2008). "Controversy over Pascal Laugier's Martyrs". Retrieved 25 June 2008. 
  14. ^ "Martyrs" : interdit aux moins de… ?,, 2 juillet 2008
  15. ^ Ain't It Cool News: Northlander interviews MARTYRS' Pascal Laugier - and he spills about his HELLRAISER remake!!
  16. ^ Exclusive: 'Twilight' Producer Wants Kristen Stewart for 'Martyrs' Remake
  17. ^ a b Zeitchik, Steven (15 November 2010). "French horror hit 'Martyrs' will undergo an American exorcism". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  18. ^ More Horror News: 'Martyrs' to Get American Makeover
  19. ^ Hall, Peter (3 April 2014). "What Happened to the Remake of Martyrs? Director Daniel Stamm Tells Us What Could Have Been". Movies. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  20. ^ Miska, Brad (3 April 2014). "A remake of Pascal Laugier’s astoundingly brutal Martyrs is still in the works, and now has Blumhouse and The Safran Company attached to produce. It also reveals new directors, placing the Goetz Brothers (of 2013’s Scenic Route) at the helm.". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  21. ^ Miska, Brad (3 April 2014). "The ‘Martyrs’ Remake Already Has Already Been Filmed". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 

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