Martyrs (2008 film)

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Martyrs tp01.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPascal Laugier
Produced byRichard Grandpierre
Simon Trottier
Written byPascal Laugier
Music bySeppuku Paradigm
Edited bySébastien Prangère
Distributed byWild Bunch
Release date
  • 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, a young girl, Lucie Jurin, escapes from a disused slaughterhouse where she's been imprisoned and tortured for more than a year. The perpetrators and their motivations remain a mystery. Lucie is placed in an orphanage, where she's befriended by a young girl named Anna Assaoui, who quickly discovers that Lucie believes that she's constantly being terrorized by a ghoulish creature—a disfigured, emaciated woman. Even so, Anna comforts Lucie every time she has a nightmare.

Fifteen years later, Lucie bursts into the home of an apparently normal family, the Belfonds - Gabrielle, her husband, and their children Antoine and Marie - and kills them all with a shotgun. Elsewhere, Anna waits for Lucie. Although Anna knows that Lucie believes the Belfonds are the people responsible for her childhood abuse, she's horrified when Lucie tells her that she's killed them. Upon arriving at the house, Anna discovers that Gabrielle is still alive and tries to help her escape, but Lucie bludgeons Gabrielle to death. Lucie is again attacked by the scarred creature, but Anna sees only Lucie hurting herself; the 'creature' is nothing more than a psychological manifestation of Lucie's guilt for leaving behind another girl who was also tortured with her as a child. Lucie, realizing that her insanity will never leave her, commits suicide.[3]

The next day, Anna, still at the family's house, telephones her mother, from whom she has been estranged; their conversation implies that Anna suffered abuse from her parents as a child. Suddenly, Anna hears some noises and discovers a secret underground chamber in the living room. Imprisoned within is a horribly tortured young woman named Sarah, proving that Lucie was right about the family. Anna helps Sarah escape, but soon after Anna mourns the loss of Lucie, Sarah is seen mutilating her arm with a knife, which Anna has difficulty preventing. Insane and physically brutalized, Sarah is shot in the head by a group who unexpectedly arrives. Captured, Anna meets their leader, an elderly lady referred to as Mademoiselle, who explains that she belongs to a secret philosophical society seeking to discover the secrets of the afterlife through the creation of "martyrs". Their experiments inflict systematic acts of torture upon young women in the belief that their suffering will result in a transcendental insight into the world beyond this one. Mademoiselle also believes that the world is divided into victims (people who can't tolerate tortures and fall into madness, like Lucie and Sarah) and martyrs (people who "accept" tortures and transcend).

Anna becomes the group's latest subject. After a period of being brutally beaten and degraded, she hallucinates a conversation with Lucie and is later told that she's progressed further than any other test subject and has reached the "final stage." She's flayed alive and survives the procedure, entering a state that is "euphoric" and likened to achieving transcendence. Mademoiselle arrives eagerly and Anna whispers into her ear.

Members of the society gather at the house to learn of the insights Anna shared with Mademoiselle. As Mademoiselle and her assistant wait for the others to arrive, he asks Mademoiselle if what Anna said to her was clear. Mademoiselle replies yes, and asks him in turn if he can imagine what comes after death. When he says no, Mademoiselle instructs him to "keep doubting," then abruptly produces a handgun and kills herself with it.

The film ends with a shot of Anna on the table, in a catatonic state.


Lead actresses Mylène Jampanoï and Morjana Alaoui
  • Mylène Jampanoï as Lucie Jurin
    • Jessie Pham as Young Lucie
  • Morjana Alaoui as Anna Assaoui
    • Erika Scott as Young Anna
  • Catherine Bégin as Mademoiselle
  • Isabelle Chasse as The Creature
  • Robert Toupin as Mr. Belfond (the father)
  • Patricia Tulasne as Gabrielle Belfond (the mother)
  • Juliette Gosselin as Marie Belfond
  • Xavier Dolan-Tadros as Antoine Belfond
  • Louise Boisvert as Anna's Mother (voice)
  • Jean-Marie Moncelet as Étienne
  • Emilie Miskdjian as Sarah


The director and the lead actresses at 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.[4]


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.[4][5][6] The review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 63% based on 38 reviews from critics, and a weighted average of 5.99 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."[7] Todd Brown at Twitch called it "without a doubt the single most divisive film to screen in the Cannes Marché Du Film this year,"[8] while Ryan Rotten at said that the film "is the new yard stick against which all forms of extreme genre films should be measured against."[4] In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films.[9] Martyrs placed at number 31 on their top 100 list.[10]

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.[11][12] 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.[13] 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+.[14]


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.[15] 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,[16] though her presence in the film was later denied by Stamm.[17][18] 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."[17]

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".[19]

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.[20] In the leads stars Bailey Noble, Troian Bellisario, Kate Burton and Blake Robbins.[21] It was panned by critics, and currently has a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes [22] and a 22/100 on Metacritic, indicating "overwhelming dislike".[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lemercier, Fabien (13 February 2007). "Martyrs: A journey into the heart of darkness". Cineuropa. Retrieved 22 November 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Martyrs (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 16 June 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Northlander interviews MARTYRS' Pascal Laugier - and he spills about his HELLRAISER remake!!". Ain't It Cool News. Ain't It Cool, Inc. 28 December 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b c Rotten, Ryan (23 June 2008). "Exclusive Interview: Martyrs Director Pascal Laugier". Archived from the original on 25 December 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Mr. Disgusting. "Martyrs". Retrieved 27 June 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Griffiths, Lee (18 March 2009). "Martyrs (2008) Film Review". Eye For Film. Eye For Film. Retrieved 29 July 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "Martyrs". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 12 November 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Brown, Todd (3 June 2008). "Pascal Laugier's Martyrs Hit With 18+ Rating in France". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on 1 July 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved 13 April 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ CC. "The 100 best horror films: the list". Time Out. Retrieved 13 April 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Two teasers for Pascal Laugier's French horror flick Martyrs". 12 June 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "Les news de : Martyrs". Première. 3 June 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ Lemercier, Fabien (2 June 2008). "Controversy over Pascal Laugier's Martyrs". Retrieved 25 June 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ "Martyrs" : interdit aux moins de… ?. 2 July 2008.
  15. ^ Ain't It Cool News: Northlander interviews MARTYRS' Pascal Laugier - and he spills about his HELLRAISER remake!!
  16. ^ Exclusive: 'Twilight' Producer Wants Kristen Stewart for 'Martyrs' Remake
  17. ^ a b Zeitchik, Steven (15 November 2010). "French horror hit 'Martyrs' will undergo an American exorcism". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 November 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ More Horror News: 'Martyrs' to Get American Makeover
  19. ^ Hall, Peter (3 April 2014). "What Happened to the Remake of Martyrs? Director Daniel Stamm Tells Us What Could Have Been". Movies. Retrieved 21 April 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  20. ^ Miska, Brad (3 April 2014). "A remake of Pascal Laugier's astoundingly brutal Martyrs is still in the works, and now has Blumhouse and The Safran Company attached to produce. It also reveals new directors, placing the Goetz Brothers (of 2013's Scenic Route) at the helm". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 21 April 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  21. ^ Miska, Brad (3 April 2014). "The 'Martyrs' Remake Already Has Already Been Filmed". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 21 April 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  22. ^ "Martyrs - Rotten Tomatoes".
  23. ^ "Martyrs Reviews".

External links[edit]