Martyrs (2008 film)

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Martyrs tp01.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Pascal Laugier
Written byPascal Laugier
Produced by Richard Grandpierre
Simon Trottier
Edited bySébastien Prangère
Music by Seppuku Paradigm
Distributed byWild Bunch
Release dates
  • May 2008 (2008-05)(Cannes Film Festival)
  • 3 September 2008 (2008-09-03)(France)
Running time
99 minutes
  • France
  • Canada
Budget€2.8 million [1]
Box office$1.1 million [2]

Martyrs is a 2008 psychological horror film written and directed by Pascal Laugier. An international co-production of France and Canada, the film follows Lucie and Anna, played by Mylène Jampanoï and Morjana Alaoui, respectively, in which Lucie's quest to seek revenge on the people who abducted and tortured her as a child leads her and Anna, also a victim of abuse, into a spiral of something much more sinister.


Martyrs premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival at the Marché du Film, and was released theatrically in France on 3 September 2008. The film was controversial upon its release, receiving polarizing reviews from critics, and has been associated with the New French Extremity movement.

An American-produced remake of the film bearing the same title premiered in 2015.


In 1971, young Lucie Jurin escapes from a disused slaughterhouse where she has been imprisoned and tortured for more than a year. She is placed in an orphanage, where she befriends Anna Assaoui, who quickly discovers that Lucie believes she is being tormented by a disfigured, demonic woman.

Fifteen years later, Lucie bursts into the home of an apparently normal family, the Belfonds — Gabrielle, her husband, and their two teenage children Marie and Antoine — and kills them with a shotgun. Lucie believes that the family was involved in her torture as a child. Anna arrives and is horrified by the carnage but ultimately decides to help Lucie clean up. Anna later discovers Gabrielle alive and tries to help her escape, but Lucie catches them and beats Gabrielle to death with a hammer. Lucie is again attacked by the demonic woman, but Anna only sees Lucie hurting herself; it is implied that the woman is the psychological manifestation of her guilt for leaving behind another girl who was also tortured with her as a child. Realizing that killing her captors didn’t stop her own mental torment, Lucie slits her own throat.

The next day, Anna, while on the phone with her estranged abusive mother, discovers a secret passageway in the living room, leading to a subterranean chamber. Imprisoned in it is a horrifically brutalised and emaciated woman, proving Lucie was right about the Belfonds. Anna helps the woman out and attempts to clean her, but she later finds her mutilating her arm with a knife. A group of people arrive at the house, kill the woman, and capture Anna. The group's leader, identified only as Mademoiselle, explains that they belong to a secret society seeking to discover the secrets of the afterlife through the creation of "martyrs". They do this by capturing young women and inflicting on them systematic acts of torture, in the belief that their suffering will result in a transcendental insight into the world beyond. So far, the group have only produced "victims" who succumbed to the pain and are unable to speak, but are determined to create martyrs who accept their suffering and speak what they see.

Anna becomes the group's latest subject. After a period of being brutally beaten and degraded, she is told that she has progressed further than any other test subject and reached the "final stage." She is flayed alive, a procedure that she survives, and reportedly enters an "ecstatic" state. Mademoiselle arrives eagerly and Anna whispers into her ear. Members of the society then gather at the house to hear the groundbreaking testimony. While waiting for Mademoiselle, an assistant asks her from outside her door if what Anna said was clear. She unequivocally confirms and asks him in turn if he can imagine what comes after death. After he says no, Mademoiselle abruptly produces a handgun, tells him to "keep doubting", and kills herself.

An intertitle explains that "martyr" is Greek for "witness" and the film ends with a shot of Anna lying catatonic on a table.


Lead actresses Mylene Jampanoi and Morjana Alaoui Mylene Jampanoi and Morjana Alaoui.png
Lead actresses Mylène Jampanoï and Morjana Alaoui


The director and the lead actresses at Toronto's Ryerson Theatre to promote the film Pascal Laugier, Morjana Alaoui and Mylene Jampanoi at Ryerson Theatre.PNG
The director and the lead actresses at Toronto's Ryerson Theatre to promote the film

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. [3]


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. [3] [4] [5] According to the review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, 64% of 39 critics have given the film a positive review, and an average rating of 6.10 out of 10. The website's critical consensus states, "A real polarising movie, this Gallic torture-porn is graphic, brutal, nasty and gruesome and not to everyone's taste." [6] Todd Brown at Screen Anarchy called it "without a doubt the single most divisive film to screen in the Cannes Marché Du Film this year," [7] while Ryan Turek at ShockTillYouDrop said that the film "is the new yard stick against which all forms of extreme genre films should be measured against." [3]

The French Commission de classification des œuvres cinématographiques rated the film 18+ (unsuitable for children under 18 or forbidden in cinemas for persons under 18), which the producers of the film appealed. [8] [9] 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 adopted the same position as the SRF, claiming censorship. [10] 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+. [11]


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 the United States. [12] 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, [13] though her presence in the film was later denied by Stamm. [14] [15] 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." [14]

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". [16]

In February 2015, the new production companies Blumhouse Productions and The Safran Company announced that the film was already filmed and that the Goetz Brothers, Michael and Kevin, had directed. [17] In the leads stars Bailey Noble, Troian Bellisario, Kate Burton and Blake Robbins. [18] It was panned by critics, and currently has a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes [19] and a 22/100 on Metacritic, indicating "overwhelming dislike". [20]

When asked about the remake, Pascal Laugier responded, “I had a bad contract, I didn't even get paid for it! That's really the only thing I regret in my career: That my name is now associated with such a junk film and I didn't even get a cent for it! I tried to watch it but only got through 20 minutes. It was like watching my mother get raped! Then I stopped. Life is too short. In the American system, a movie like ‘Martyrs’ is just not possible - they saw my movie and then turned it into something completely uninteresting.” [21]

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  12. Ain't It Cool News: Northlander interviews MARTYRS' Pascal Laugier - and he spills about his HELLRAISER remake!!
  13. Exclusive: 'Twilight' Producer Wants Kristen Stewart for 'Martyrs' Remake
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  15. More Horror News: 'Martyrs' to Get American Makeover
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