An unusual film whose title, mysterious at first, shines like a beacon of unholy light by its conclusion. Although thoroughly unpredictable and beautifully made, the grisly content of many scenes is guaranteed to send viewers screaming from revival theaters (or maybe drive-in theaters?) in disgust, break off first-dates mid-kiss, or shatter complacent evenings interrupted by television cords ripped from walls, never to be plugged in again.
Trauma does not go gently in this film; in this film, trauma echoes endlessly, which is one of the metaphors at work here–although there are many others, including, most prominently, although not introduced until the third act, the angelic quality of facial and eye expressions of true martyrs, a profoundly perverse idea which nonetheless adds a layer of artistry, raising this work high above formulaic torturous yarns in a philosophic sense while technically being part of the torture yarn tradition, delivering the requisite cringeworthy scenes. Experiencing the afterlife while alive is another compelling idea explored, and we do wish we could have overheard our heroine’s experience of it as she whispered it into a cruel and elderly madame’s ear, the cult-like leader of the freaky one percent secret society featured in the film’s final scenes.
Today is May 18th, 2020, and Martyrs is currently streaming on various VOD services.