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Delivering something that no one was clamoring for, filmmaker siblings Kevin and Michael Goetz (Scenic Route) have made a remake of Pascal Laugier’s 2008 French cult favorite horror film. Deviating from the original in some key respects, this version of Martyrs doesn’t make much of a case for its inspiration, but it may attract those hardcore horror fans averse to reading subtitles. The film’s screenplay is by Mark L. Smith, co-writer of The Revenant, but this effort is less likely to show up on his résumé.
The story begins with 10-year-old Lucie fleeing the isolated farmhouse in which she’s been held prisoner. She is taken in by a Catholic orphanage, where she becomes best friends with Anna (cue the poetic shot of the adorable little girls lying on their backs and staring up at the sky).
RELEASE DATE Jan 22, 2016
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Cut to 10 years later, when the now grown-up Lucie (Pretty Little Liars‘ Troian Bellisario) shows up at the same house, toting a shotgun, and proceeds to shoot the family inside to death. She enlists Anna (True Blood‘s Bailey Noble) to help her bury the bodies, but the trouble doesn’t end there. We soon learn that a murderous religious cult is involved, led by the menacing Eleanor (Kate Burton, apparently trying to outdo her father Richard’s hammy performance in the similarly schlocky Exorcist II: The Heretic).
The proceedings eventually degenerate into standard torture-porn tropes, including a loving shot of a female victim being skinned. That the scenario is infused with religious themes — explained in excessive detail by the female cult leader who seems schooled in the Bond villain handbook — that include images of women being burned alive in fiery crucifixions only adds to the overall silliness.
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The film is competently photographed and edited, the electronic musical score adds appropriately ominous atmosphere and the two young lead actresses go through their harrowing paces with admirable commitment. But it all feels terribly monotonous and familiar, and not just because it’s literally a rehash of something that’s been done before.
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Production: A Wild Bunch, The Safran Company, Blumhouse Productions
Cast: Troian Bellisario, Bailey Noble, Kate Burton, Caitlin Carmichael, Romy Rosemont, Toby Huss, Elyse Cole, Melissa Tracy
Directors: Kevin Goetz, Michel Goetz
Producers: Peter Safran, Agnes Mentre
Executive producers: Morgan White, Dan Clifton
Director of photography: Alan Roderick Jones
Editor: Jake York
Costume designer: Sheila Hume
Composer: Evan Goldman
Casting: Lauren Bass, Jordan Bass
Not rated, 86 minutes
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