How does a horror fan approach Kevin and Michael Goetz’s attempt at remaking Pascal Laugier’s horror classic?
Its the same question I asked myself when I sat down last year to finally have the courage to watch Spike Lee do his take on the masterpiece that was Oldboy, a remake that if truth be told, is not to dissimilar in tone to this attempt.
Long time readers of HCF will know that I loathe this remake lark with passion, I find 99% of them totally pointless because for many, you can only wonder and think “How can you remake perfection?”, I mean, did giving Michael Myers a back story enhance Halloween?, NO! By having to watch Norman Bates masturbate while looking through that peep hole make the new Psycho a much better film……NO!.
Only films like Carpenter’s The Thing, Cronenberg’s The Fly and Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead, have really given the horror remake genre a proper worthy “well done”, because the treatment the likes of Jason Vorhees and Freddy have had, have virtually killed their own once special franchise, with the studios unsure now of where to go next!
But I do get why horrors like Oldboy and Martyrs get remade! There are many fans out there, including some of my horror loving friends who refuse to watch any films that carry subtitles. The usual “I want to watch a film nor read it!”, is the usual reply when I try to entice them into watching anything in French or a proper J Horror. Which infuriates me, because many are missing out on such classics, which Laugier’s 2006 draining horror can certainly claim to be. So if such a film gets missed by the masses because of its foreign nature, I can see the sense in remaking it for our market, even though you are guaranteed that the film will lose its special essence doing the translation.
That’s exactly what happens to this attempt at Martyrs which I must say is not a bad effort from the Goetz’s brothers, but like Oldboy before it, when comparing it to its original, you can not help but feel like its an inferior film.
If you have not seen the original film though, then you probably find alot of things right. First the positives and yes, the film is wonderfully shot, the young actresses especially Troian Bellisaro who makes you forget that she is Spencer from the teen fav Pretty Little Liars, are all on top form and its a decent watch, but when you talking about Martyrs the word “decent” should not even be considered.
For the newcomers, a quick recap of the plot. We start with a young girl running down the street in fear, her name is Lucie and she has been through an experience that you wish no other human to go through. Abused and beaten over and over, now free, she befriends another young girl called Anna and its a friendship that spans over a decade, despite a “demon” haunting her at night.
10 years later, a family is sitting down for breakfast and there is a knock on the door. The Dad opens to greet the visitor and outside is Lucie, holding a shotgun, why? and for what purpose?.
For both girls its a start of a nightmare that they both did not see coming!
To judge Martyrs 2016 to Martyrs 2008, you can only compare “that breakfast scene” and realise just how much of a less impact this redo has for the horror viewer.
While the original had the family sitting down for a normal breakfast and conversation which lasts more than a few minutes, here the Dad barely sits down and we hear the “knock knock!”. It shows just how impatient the American audience is when it comes to telling a story. The French vision sucks you in with a fear of dread and when that door opens….BANG! BANG!…..you are sucked into a story that you want to turn off but you can’t as your eyes won’t let you.
Here it feels that the story can’t breath, there is no trust from the Goetz brothers in delivering a slow burn, as this version is aimed for the teen audience, but by watering down the violence that made Martyrs such a gruelling viewing, you only lose the impact that this film can offer.
The changes to the script are minor but also prove problematic. Poor Lucie originally went through such a journey in a short period for us the viewer, but it was Anna who not only showed us how close her friendship meant to her but she herself also paid the price for such loyalty. Here though we lose that closeness because they decide to change the direction of Lucie and Anna which once more robs the storyline of its disturbing element.
The plot changes are like a ripple, you change one but it effects the rest and Martyrs 2015 never really recovers.
I find it hard and quite guilty to be harsh on this attempt especially when the horror genre remake is awash with horrid entries like The Fog and The Wicker man, so believe me, this is nowhere near as horrific and awful and like the recent Oldboy attempt, I admire what has been offered. The Goetz Brothers are directors to really look out for in the horror genre.
The problem with Martyrs 2016 is of course Martyrs 2008, if you haven’t seen it of course. The story and the impact it had on horror was unbelievable, a modern classic in its own right that made the term “Torture-Porn” seem a worthy addition to horror. Once you know what is coming, the little twists, then its obvious any attempt will prove kind of pointless, but even then you can’t help but see that this is nothing more than a diluted version, aimed for a Teen Audience who like their horror easy to watch.
And that is the problem!
Martyrs 2016 should not have been this easy. It needed to go dark, to pull its viewer into the nightmare facing the two girls, sharing their pain, something the original did really well. By hacking off the extreme element all we left is nothing more than a film we have seen many times with the likes of Hostel and Vacancy. There is sadly no middle ground for fans and newcomers.
Which by summing it all up means die hard fans will watch out of curiosity and have the same feelings I did, while the newcomers will wonder what all the fuss is about?
But if it manages to get one viewer to seek out the original and watch how this story should be done, then Martyrs 2016 like all remakes, would have done its job.