Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Enough Already.........just...enough....

So, last night I watched a film that had been hyped to me by various sources as a masterpiece. I rented it, threw it in the DVD machine and sat down to hopefully enjoy.

It was literally one of the worst films I have ever seen.

The film was a French horror film called Martyrs. It was directed and written by Pascal Laugier , the director of Brotherhood of the Wolf, which I enjoyed even though it was maybe one act too long. Martyrs is part of that extreme sub genre of horror which has been depressingly labelled "torture porn" by the media.

I like horror movies, always have. What kind of a film geek would I be if I didn't? And not just the classy ones like The Exorcist or The Shining. I liked The Hills Have Eyes (both versions) and The Last House on the Left (the original one). I think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best films of the 1970s. The Thing is amazing. I love the work of Argento and Fulci and Romero. I have no problem with gore or violence, even when it's being used in an exploitational way.

Of the recent crop of extreme horror there have been some films I enjoyed, too. I really liked High Tension until the last half an hour, but up until that point it was a breathtaking film. Cabin Fever was insane fun that was redeemed by how goofy it was. I even liked the first Saw, which had a killer twist and a novel approach. You could even throw Irreversible into the mix, which I enjoyed the style of more than the content. I also thought The Descent was very good.

Does this establish my horror bona fides? Yes, there's some gaps. I haven't seen the lauded Inside or the incredibly acclaimed Funny Games (the original version or the lesser remake). I haven't yet seen Audition, which is supposed to be great. It's hard to get my horror fill in when my wife won't watch it, but I'm trying.

But, back to Martyrs. Basically, what made me despise this film so completely was its pretentious aspirations to any kind of depth or worth. I won't spoil the basic premise for anyone looking to experience this godawful dreck, but suffice to say that it attempts to justify ninety minutes of brutal, gory, explicit and dehumanising torture of women by raising some ill-defined pseudo-intellectual claptrap about martyrdom and the afterlife.

But the film utterly fails in its attempts at depth, and therein lies the really enraging aspect. Hostel and its ilk are total exploitative trash, but at least that's all they're trying to do. But the pretentiousness of attempting to claim that your film is not simply about the brutalisation of young women by interjecting some ill-defined half baked philosophical point is matched only by its callousness.

, there's no doubt that much of it was effective. The direction was good, the performances were okay, the look of the film was good. I was even scared in parts. But there was no point to it. It just nihilism, pure and simple. It was empty and devoid of any sort of catharsis or empathy or sense of fun. It tried to partially indict the audience, but attacking an audience for watching the very type of film you are making needs to be done much more cleverly than it was here, and it takes a special brand of arrogance besides. This type of film cannot be the future of horror, for if it is, we're talking about a future with no redeeming qualities other than imaginative ways to brutalize each other.

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