Films & Schedules

  • Martyrs

  • Pascal Laugier

100 minutes

Production Company:
ESKWAD/ TCB Films/Wild Bunch
Executive Producer:
Frédèric Doniguian
Richard Grandpierre, Simon Trottier
Pascal Laugier
Production Designer:
Jean-André Carrière
Nathalie Moliavko-Visotzky, Stéphane Martin
Sébastien Prangere
Germain Boulay
Seppuku Paradigm
Principal Cast: Morjana Alaoui, Mylène Jampanoï, Catherine Begin, Robert Toupin

US Distributor:
The Weinstein Company
International Sales Agent:
Wild Bunch

Wednesday September 1011:59PM RYERSON Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Friday September 1211:45AM VARSITY 3 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Saturday September 1304:00PM AMC 3 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Destined to become one of the most controversial titles in the history of Midnight Madness, Pascal Laugier's Martyrs sparked a protest by France's Society of Film Directors after the Film Commission gave it a harsh 18+ rating (the first time such a designation was applied to a French genre film), which practically amounts to an outright ban. If you choose to see what the fuss is about, brace yourself.

Martyrs opens with a horrifying story ripped from the headlines: young Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) is found half-naked, filthy, starving and nearly catatonic, unable to describe the horrors she has endured. Hospitalized, she learns to function once again with the help of Anna (Morjana Alaoui), another young victim of terrible abuse. The girls quickly develop a strong bond, and though they try to protect each other, Lucie continues to be haunted by the spectre of her violent past.

Fifteen years later, with the help of Anna, Lucie sets out to wreak vengeance on the family she suspects of being the sadists responsible for her torture. Lucie's violent acts set into motion a downward spiral of pain and despair for the two heroines.

Martyrs is a visceral and deeply disturbing exploration of what it is like to experience the furthest limits of human endurance. While many genre pundits immediately compare the two films, last year's French shocker À l'intérieur is an amusement park ride compared to the effect of the brass-knuckled sucker punch thrown by Martyrs. Owing much to intense and dedicated performances from its leads, Martyrs becomes immensely uncomfortable, evoking powerful and upsetting emotions.

While Laugier toys with many of the genre's archetypes, including ghosts, monsters and revenge scenarios, he shifts the tone to pure Sadeian terror, untarnished by the fetid old rules of mainstream horror.

Both challenging and surprising, Martyrs is a rare triumph and one of the truest subversive expressions in a genre overrun by shock before thought.

Colin Geddes

Pascal Laugier studied filmmaking at the École Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle in Paris. In addition to several short films, he has directed the making-of documentaries Le Pacte des loups – Les Entrailles de la bête (01) and Le Pacte des loups – Les Coulisses du tournage (01). He wrote and directed the features Saint Ange (04) and Martyrs (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award