I really, really hate it when America decides to remake a foreign cinema classic. Do you remember when Spike Lee tried and failed to make a US version of the Korean masterpiece Oldboy? That was pretty outrageous but I don’t think that any are quite so filled with apprehension as the upcoming American take on French psychological horror Martyrs.
If you haven’t seen Martyrs, go and watch it now. Written and directed by Pascal Laugier, the seriously messed up plot follows a girl who is seeking revenge on the people who tortured and abused her as a child. But as the story unfolds (without giving too much away) there is a much more sinister and dark reason behind the torturer’s purpose. Check out the trailer below:
I wouldn’t say that the trailer does it justice — it’s probably one of the most effective, subtle and psychologically damaging movies that has come out in the last decade. French horrors always seem to hit the nail on the head — it ranks up there with Inside and Switchblade Romance.
So anyway, America wanted their own version. Kevin and Michael Goetz decided to have a go and I’m not entirely confident how it’s going to turn out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a decent horror release and there are quite a few set for this year like The Conjuring 2 and The Witch. But this is going to be no mean feat and Hollywood does have a tendency to absolutely butcher the refined delicacies that make French cinema so compelling. See what you think for yourself — here’s the trailer for the new one:
Thing is, if this was a completely new film, I would say it looks pretty damn good. But it’s not a new concept – it’s already been done and it was perfection. Don’t fix something that ain’t broken. And certainly please don’t add big-boobed actresses in thin white t-shirts. Not cool.
The release has already screened at some film festivals, meaning there are several reviews already out. Chris Crum, from iHorror, said that while the cinematography perhaps even surpasses the original in some cases, there are some issues with the screenplay.
When changes are made to the narrative, they don’t enhance the experience, but rather make it less impactful and sometimes less coherent. The conclusion makes little sense in the grand scheme (of both the film and the intentions of its characters).
This movie is very much an “Americanized” version of an extreme French movie. Whereas the original takes you to a place you’ve never been before and couldn’t possibly expect, this one devolves into much more familiar territory. Don’t get me wrong, the concept isn’t totally abandoned. It’s just largely stripped of its power.
And that, unfortunately, is exactly what seems to happen with a lot of these remakes. Whereas the original can create an experience that is completely impactful and emotive, the American version often comes across as dumbed down and weak.
We’ll just have to see how this one pans out. If you are interested in seeing what the Goetz brother’s take is like, keep an eye out as there is no official UK cinema date. The theatrical and digital run in the US is on Friday and then will hit VOD and DVD on 2 February.