This is an English-language remake. This is something that might be considered one of the all-time bad ideas up there alongside the Dino De Laurentiis remake of King Kong (1976), Jar-Jar Binks and the acting career of Pauly Shore. There have been a great many English-language remakes of foreign films a trend that began in the 1960s with efforts like The Magnificent Seven (1960) and has become increasingly more commonplace since the late 1990s. There have been one or two of these that have not been too bad The Ring (2002), The Departed (2006), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and mostly a good number that have failed to come anywhere near their originals. There is however a special circle of hell reserved for those that so badly mangle everything about the original efforts like The Vanishing (1993) and Diabolique (1996) and rewrite shock endings for something happy and upbeat. It is somewhere down around here where Martyrs lies.
This version of Martyrs has been placed in the hands of brothers Kevin and Michael Goetz who had previously only directed the thriller Scenic Route (2013), although had earlier written the script for the sf disaster movie Tycus (1999). The remake had originally started out under Daniel Stamm, director of The Last Exorcism (2010), but he departed. This version is co-produced by Wild Bunch, the French production company behind the original, and Blumhouse, the production company of Jason Blum who has been behind a great many genre films in recent years with the likes of Paranormal Activity (2007), Insidious (2010) and The Purge (2013), all of which have produced multiple sequels, and others. (See below for Blumhouses other productions).
The Goetzs admitted up front that the remake would not be as extreme as the original. After hearing this, you sit down to watch the film wondering just what the point is. If you cut out most of what made the original effective and became its talking point then why even conduct a remake at all? It is not as though there isnt a market for something that approaches what the original did in terms of grimness as the popularity of the Saw sequels in recent years has demonstrated. Against this, the production of something so anodyne can only amount to a complete betrayal of the source material.
With the torture scenes watered down to the point of making almost no impact, all that that leaves you with is Pascal Laugiers script. However, this is handled with a stunning lack of adeptness of almost every level such that its twists pass without any effect. The scene where Lucie bursts in to blow away the family had some shock impact but is minimal in the replaying here. The scene where the figure attacking Lucie was revealed to only be in her head was a considerable jolt in Laugiers hands but is repeated with zero effect. There are other even worse changes one of these is that both girls remain alive until the end, the upshot of which is that the film now gets the addition of a positive upbeat drama about Anna breaking back into the facility to rescue Lucie from her fate, charging through the complex in action heroine mode, blowing away cult members with a shotgun right and left. The other ridiculous change is that we are told what the cult are trying to achieve fairly early on during the imprisonment. Thus the revelation that the girls are being tortured to obtain evidence of the afterlife comes not as a stunning end of film revelation but serves to turn the piece into just another work about a crazy cult torturing people for some wacky ideal.
Jason Blum and his Blumhouse production company have produced a number of other genre films including:- Hamlet (2000), Paranormal Activity (2007) and sequels, Insidious (2010) and sequels, Tooth Fairy (2010), The Bay (2012), The Lords of Salem (2012), The River (tv series, 2012), Sinister (2012) and sequel, Dark Skies (2013), Oculus (2013), The Purge (2013) and sequels, the tv mini-series Ascension (2014), Creep (2014), Jessabelle (2014), Mercy (2014), Mockingbird (2014), Not Safe for Work (2014), Ouija (2014) and sequel, 13 Sins (2014), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Unfriended/Cybernatural (2014), Area 51 (2015), The Boy Next Door (2015), Curve (2015), The Gallows (2015), The Gift (2015), Jem and the Holograms (2015), The Lazarus Effect (2015), Visions (2015), The Visit (2015), The Darkness (2016), Hush (2016), Incarnate (2016), The Veil (2016), Viral (2016), Amityville: The Awakening (2017), Get Out (2017), Happy Death Day (2017), The Keeping Hours (2017), Split (2017) and Stephanie (2017).
(Winner in this sites Worst Films of 2015 list).