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Pascal Laugier’s MARTYRS, a HELLRAISER Birthday Cake and MORE!
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The Bite #75
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Pascal Laugier’s MARTYRS, a HELLRAISER Birthday Cake and MORE!

September 10, 2019

In this Issue:


HORROR HISTORY: LIVE THROUGH THIS: PASCAL LAUGIER’S MARTYRS

By Alexandra West*

Notorious is a good word to describe Pascal Laugier’sMartyrs (2008). Notoriously violent, bleak, and, on its initial release, hard to get a copy of, Martyrs is made for the horror fan who needs to experience everything.

After its public premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008, Martyrs was released on DVD and gained its reputation among fans as the most extreme entry in the brief but influential subgenre, New French Extremity, a series of films to emerge from France at the turn of the century. FromIrreversible (2002) and Twentynine Palms (2003) toHigh Tension (2003) and Frontiere(s) (2007), New French Extremity was the exact opposite of 2001’s Amelie. They were films that dealt with the very real horrors of modern-day France, from its conservatism to its racism and engrained intolerances. Also, they had fewer garden gnomes.

Martyrs arrived at the tail-end of the movement. Martyrs tells the story of Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) a young woman who grew up in an orphanage with her protective friend Anna (Morjana Alaoui). Lucie was tortured by unknown assailants as a child and grapples with the demonic PTSD that has followed her since. As the film gets underway, Lucie is about to exact revenge as Anna helplessly tries to stop her. The film then takes several twists and turns that have both endeared and distanced fans from its narrative. 

What has stayed with this film are the claims of senseless, unrelenting torture and accusations of misogyny as Martyrs spends a great deal of its runtime on female suffering. Laugier shows with unblinking precision the violence and pain that exists within our world. Claims that these elements serve little to no purpose ignore the trauma that those on the outskirts of society experience.

At the beginning of the film, Laugier defines a martyr as a “witness” which is ultimately what he asks of his audience. The power of Martyrs comes from the viewers’ willingness to bear witness to the darkest parts of humanity and ourselves so that suffering is not without purpose.

Pascal Laugier’s newest film, Incident in a Ghostland, is now available on Shudder. 


*Alexandra West is the author of “Films of the New French Extremity” and “The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle” for McFarland & Company. She has co-hosted The Faculty of Horror podcast with Rue Morgue Executive Editor Andrea Subissati since its inception in 2012.


IMAGE OF THE WEEK

Remember, You Must Die

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TINY BITES

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SUCH DESSERTS TO SHOW YOU

Carrollton, Texas cake-maker Karen Disnard loves to challenge expectations with her birthday, wedding, and other special occasion cakes. Take this 50th birthday cake, for example. After all, nothing says “happy birthday” quite like cenobites coming to tear your soul apart.


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