For those who care deeply about the provenance of their entertainment (and I am sometimes among them), the filmmaking brothers Kevin and Michael Goetz describe their new project, “Martyrs,” as a “reimagining” of Pascal Laugier’s 2008 original of the same name. Without seeing the earlier movie, I can’t comment; but after enduring this one, I can only wonder why the brothers would cop to any creative input at all.
Shatteringly stupid and repulsively misogynistic, “Martyrs” mashes revenge, torture and the supernatural into one solid, quasi-religious lump. Flailing at its center are two young women, Lucie (Troian Bellisario) and Anna (Bailey Noble), who bonded in an orphanage 10 years earlier after Lucie escaped from a mysterious tormentor. Plagued by monstrous visions and furniture that skittered across her bedroom floor, Lucie was in dire need of an understanding bestie.
As adults, however, the demands on that friendship are so brutal and preposterous that Anna’s devotion is never remotely believable. Saddled with a screenplay (by Mark L. Smith) that prioritizes slaughter over sisterhood, the actresses scream and groan in contorted close-up as they morph from victims to killers and back again. Their actions — which involve bloody payback on Lucie’s former captors and the uncovering of a looney-tunes cult — are frequently so nonsensical that their many and varied torments become the movie’s de facto point.
Observed with gloating precision by Sean Odea’s dispassionate camera, the flaying and knifing, drilling and gagging are depressingly pointless. The cult wants to know what we see at the moment of death. I’m not certain, but I might have just seen it.