This October on my horror movie quest I was picking movies from They Shoot Zombies, Don’t They? and I came across the movie Martyrs. I saw some good ratings and lots of comments saying how this was a modern masterpiece. With reviews like that I was excited to give this one a watch. I didn’t know any details or why this movie was so highly recommended to horror fans but I decided to dive right in. I started the movie up and…. realized I accidentally got the 2015 remake. So I went back to get the original and… I absolutely loved it. The more I thought about it the more I loved it. Since I’m a glutton for punishment I went in cold on the 2015 remake this morning since I already had it, just to see how it compares. That movie made me so angry I was yelling at my TV. I want to discuss these movies side by side to really compare the differences between them. As a fair warning, this will be a longer than normal post because I can’t stop talking about these movies.
Cut to present day and this is where the differences really become apparent. In 2008, you spend 3 minutes with the suburban family. They joke around with each other, you learn that the daughter is a talented swimmer, the son isn’t doing well in school, and the mother is into DIY projects at home. You get to know these people and become invested in them. Then the door bell rings and the shooting starts. Lucie takes her time and you can see her really struggle with killing the children. The emotion is intense and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Now let’s transition over to the 2015 version whose same scene starts with a brightly light idealistic home and, aside from the father digging up the yard, the entire “get to know the family” scene takes not even a minute before the shooting starts. The only thing you learn about this family is that the mom is one of those control freak moms. The kids act like their 2008 counterparts but with much less back story. As a result, I don’t care in any way for these people. When the killing started I didn’t really care so much if she killed the kids because I didn’t know them. You also don’t have any connection between Lucie and the mother like you see in 2008. The shortening of this scene really took the punch away from it, and for such a pivotal moment it was a big mistake.
Next we have the introduction of adult Anna in 2008; she’s nervous and looks like she’s just waiting for Lucie to call. From the dialogue we learn they’re working together and she’s trying to help Lucie find the people that hurt her. Whereas in the 2015 version, it looks like Lucie woke Anna up from a peaceful sleep. There isn’t any indication that Anna knows what’s going on and the whole scene takes about 30 seconds which is about half the time and contains 1/10th of the dialogue from 2008. So again, you lose some of that connection with the characters.
Here we are back in the 2008 house with Lucie for some character development. You see scars on her arms and are treated to an intensely gory suspenseful introduction to her demon. She clearly suffers from some PTSD and you see flashbacks into the torture she endured as a child. The flashback torture scenes are pretty disturbing and sad to watch. They’re blended in really well with sounds from the present that act as the trigger. This scene in the 2015 version is, as you might have guessed, shorter and less complete. There is no flashback and you don’t get any connection between her demon and her past. The gore is dialed back quite a bit, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing but I preferred the 2008 amount myself. 2008 Anna even has bandages and first aid equipment like she’s handled the aftermath of Lucie’s demon before. You see her cleaning, stitching up and dressing Lucie’s wounds while in 2015, Lucie just has bandages on her wounds in the next scene which I guess she put on herself.
As for the relationship between the girls, in 2015 they seem very distant for two people that are supposed to be close friends/lovers. I mean that both figuratively and literally. They constantly stand apart from each other and I’m not buying into their friendship at this point. For all I know, Lucie phoning Anna was the first time they’ve talked in years and with the way they’re acting towards each other that could very well be true. In 2008, you have a scene where Anna and Lucie are dirty, bloody, crying and comforting each other while surrounded by the dead bodies of the family. It’s this moment when you realize that Anna loves Lucie and can’t stand to see her like this. I didn’t feel any of that in 2015 since the connection between them was that Anna gave her cookies as a child, so how that translates to “I will help you clean up dead bodies” is pretty far fetched. What this comes down to again is that 2008 takes the time to build up the characters because when you really care about them the suspense is intensified immensely. This whole section of the movie in 2015 felt like they took jot notes of all the lines and emotions they wanted to hit then filled in the gaps, while the lines and emotions in 2008 felt organic and well deserved.
I’ll fast forward now to the part of the movie where the torture rooms are discovered. In 2015, Anna becomes a stand in for the audience wherein she never actually gets tortured. She listens to the exposition, and becomes the hero of the movie. It’s a really uncomfortable thing to watch a character you’ve grown to care about become completely powerless and just give up. I don’t know if the 2015 version didn’t want to put the viewers through that, but the 2008 version certainly did. I was always hoping that Anna would make it out alive, but as time went on I started to feel hopeless right along with her and because of that her destruction was believable. The suffering in 2015 was of people I didn’t know and felt more like it was used for pure shock value rather than trying to evoke real emotions.
The last thing I want to compare is the actual explanation and meaning behind the tortures. In 2008, it makes sense that they would take Anna and continue the torture with her because in their eyes Lucie and the previous girl were failures. The girls were damaged people and were never going to become the martyrs they wanted. Now they needed a new subject and they had her. In 2015, they flipped this idea around completely and Lucie was not a failure, she was actually seen as the next martyr. There is no indication throughout the movie that there is something special about Lucie. If it’s because she sees things and hurts herself, then I don’t understand that. If I were the torturers, I would see that as weak minded which doesn’t fit their criteria for a martyr. The martyr is supposed to endure the pain and suffering, not escape it in their minds. They have to really suffer to be able to see the afterlife. Whether or not you can buy into that is up to you, but I did in 2008 so I don’t see why they had to switch it around entirely in 2015.
Overall, the 2008 version had a much better story with fleshed out and interesting characters. It was a roller coaster ride from one scene to another and even though it sickened me to the core, it left an emotional impact that’s keeping me thinking about it days later. The 2015 version was toted as more of a re-imagining rather than a straight up remake. I tried my best not to judge it too harshly in comparison but I think as a movie without even comparing it to the original it fell way short. The characters were boring, uninteresting suburban girls. I didn’t believe any of this could actually happen and I also just didn’t care. The only part that made me cringe or feel anything was the skinning scene, but even that was watered down and pointless. There was no build up to it, and the aftermath was very confusing. I feel like they threw it in because the original had it and audiences were expecting it. As a horror fan, I would definitely check out the 2008 version, especially if you enjoy watching great characters. I don’t think there’s any real value in watching the 2015 version since it just guts everything that made 2008 great while adding nothing new or exciting.
2008 Verdict: 9/10 Don’t eat before watching this
2015 Verdict: 4/10 Don’t watch this period.