Finally saw Martyrs this week. I've been hearing for about a year that it's going to be the next big thing in horror and it has been getting five star reviews left and right etc etc. Does it live up to the hype? Well, yes and no.
The movie certainly lived up to being one of the most extreme, original movies I've ever seen. I've certainly never seen the central 'martyr' idea before in a movie. However, if your objective when sitting down to watching a gory horror movie is some good popcorn entertainment then this film certainly is not for you. It is an extremely intense, challenging watch. If I had to compare it to anything it would have to be Gaspar Noe's Irreversible, they both gave me the sense that the director is actively trying to almost attack the audience, trying to get them to emote, even negatively. It's almost like they're saying 'I know exactly what you want to see, and I'm going to give you the exact opposite, how do you like that?'
For example *SPOILERS AHEAD, I WONT SPOIL THE ENDING BUT I WILL TALK ABOUT MOST OF THE PLOT* for the majority of the film, the 'heroine' appears to be a completely unbalanced psychopath, a murderer in fact. You are repulsed by her actions, and yet you know she is supposed to be the protagonist and feel for her despite yourself, then later on the movie takes a U-turn dangerously close to torture porn territory but where that subgenre's satisfaction comes from the silly over-the-top gore and attractive young stars this film purposely denies you that satisfaction, as if to say 'this is what this kind of abuse is really like, it's not fun, it's not silly, it is just really really repulsive'.
The film is also bursting with social commentary if you look for it. There are allusions to religious cults, the abuse of children and even the Holocaust. It explores the extremes people will go to in the name of a cause they believe fanatically in.
All in all, this film is certainly an experience worth having, I wouldn't call it entertainment per se but it certainly engages you as an audience member and stands head and shoulders above most of the cheesy horror fare coming out in cinemas. It's been about a week since I watched it and some of the images are still vivid in my mind. I can certainly say it gets under your skin, and in your head. It grabs hold of you and doesn't let go, even after the credits start rolling. Highly recommended.