Horror Movie Roundup #4: Brutal Edition (Martyrs, I Spit on Your Grave, Wolf Creek)

Well, this batch of horror films was a little more difficult to digest than the last. Here are my takes on three controversial movies of the genre:

Martyrs [2009]
Martyrs [2009]
One of the most notorious films to come from the New French Extremity movement, Martyrs is not an easy watch by any means. The film follows a young woman who teams up with a friend and goes out for revenge against those who kidnapped and tortured her as a child. Once the two women reach their destination, all hell breaks loose, and it is revealed that this kidnapping was not an isolated event. This transition represents a major tonal shift, almost making it feel as if there are two films in one. What was a pretty solid revenge flick turns into something that is borderline “tortune porn.” Some argue that there is a deeper meaning behind the second half, and there may very well be, but the non-stop abuse isn’t any different than what can be found in Saw and the like. Regardless, this is a film that I won’t be forgetting any time soon, for better or for worse. 6/10

I Spit On Your Grave [1978]
I Spit on Your Grave [1978]
I’m going to come right out and say it: this is the worst film I have ever seen. I’m not being hyperbolic — this “film” is pure garbage. The first 45 minutes or so involve a woman heading to a rural retreat only to be gang-raped multiple times by the same group of men. When they finally leave her behind, she begins to extract bloody revenge on each of them, one-by-one. It’s a basic exploitation plot, but the difference here is that there is absolutely no talent involved in this project. The sickening, graphic rape scenes eventually lead to a handful of ridiculous, poorly conceived revenge kills, and that’s it. Some claim there was some type of feminist agenda to this, but I don’t buy it. This was made for pure shock value, and it features some unbelievably terrible acting. Every now and then I like to test my limits in film, but I could not find one single redeeming value in this. I can’t believe this has a cult following. 1/10

Wolf Creek [2005]
Wolf Creek [2005]
This Australian take on the serial killer subgenre has some real highs, but takes too long to get going. When three backpackers (two British, one Aussie) get stranded in the Australian Outback, they are assisted by a local bushman who is more psychotic than he first appears. Basic serial killer 101, but what sets this apart from others in the genre is the film’s gorgeous cinematography. This uses the Outback beautifully as its backdrop, milking the landscape as often as possible. The main villain is also a charismatic one, but I just wish we had more time to get to know him. The film spends too much time early on showing the backpackers partying and getting wasted, but it never provides much in the way of character depth. Thus, once the madness finally begins, there is little attachment to any of them. The film could have also done more with the concept instead of relying so heavily on the countryside, but it’s still an enjoyable effort for the most part. 6/10

Have you guys seen any of these? What did you think of them?

23 thoughts on “Horror Movie Roundup #4: Brutal Edition (Martyrs, I Spit on Your Grave, Wolf Creek)

  1. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop says:

    I couldn’t stand Wolf Creek! Like you said, it took forever to get going, but perhaps my biggest annoyance was the fact that we saw absolutely nothing of the male backpacker for a huge chunk of the film and then it suddenly cuts back to him, he escapes and all is well. We’ve invested absolutely no time in his story yet he’s the one who survives that we’re supposed to be happy for. I do, however, agree that the cinematography was great, it’s just a shame the rest of it was so awful! πŸ™‚

    • Eric says:

      Oh yeah, great observation about the male backpacker. I also thought that was rather strange that he essentially disappeared for the entire last act of the film, only to reappear at the end. I think the film could have been much more effective if it had worked on fleshing out the characters a bit more.

  2. Ais says:

    The only one of these three I’ve watched is “Wolf Creek”, I watched it because it was based on a true story (loosely, I sincerely hope–too much brutality for reality). I liked it, but I would have loved to get to know the serial killer more than we got to, the other characters were mostly just boring.

    • Eric says:

      Yep, totally agree. The three backpackers were just your average horror victims with little in the way of personality, and the villain wasn’t on screen nearly enough.

      From what I have read, the film is very loosely based on a true story where a British tourist was murdered in the Outback by a man who flagged him down, citing vehicle trouble. The tourist’s female companion managed to escape, and she was the chief witness in getting the killer imprisoned.

  3. jackdeth72 says:

    Hi, all:

    There’s some obscure titles.

    ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ was a very unpleasant experience. With a way over the top, watched between spread fingers, near sick beginning. A creepy follow through and a pay-off that should have sought more retribution and painful payback.

    Looks and feels like a cheaper version of ‘Thriller: A Cruel Picture’/’They Call Her One Eye’ from Stockholm, in 1974.

    ‘Wolf Creek’ reaffirms my belief that Australia and its Outback are places I shall never visit. More shock than torture porn. Held together with a few twists and a disgusting, yet memorable bad guy.

    I’ll take Abel Ferrara’s much more stylish, ‘Ms. 45’ any day over these.

    • Eric says:

      Hi Jack, great to hear from you. I was surprised to hear others call Wolf Creek ‘torture porn’ because there really wasn’t that much actual torture in the film. Certainly not any more than your standard slasher or serial killer movie. And you’re right about the villain — he was disgusting, but also managed to be charismatic at the same time. Not an easy one to forget.

      I’ll have to keep an eye out for the other films you mentioned, particularly Ms. 45. Thanks, my friend.

  4. hellomimosa says:

    Martyrs was definitely one of the most intensely disturbing movies I’ve ever seen. Although I would never see it again, for that reason, it left an impression and gave me something to think about. So if the director’s objective was to leave a bloody dent created by a blunt object into my psyche, then he succeeded.

    • Eric says:

      Haha, that’s a great way of putting it! I’m glad I saw Martyrs — I think — but it’s not something I could ever recommend to others. It’s definitely effective, though.

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. craft fear says:

    I’ve only seen “I Spit on your Grave” mostly out of a feeling of horror-fan obligation. It is brutal all right. The revenge portion is way less gratifying than one would think.

  6. Alex Withrow says:

    I really enjoyed the beginning of Martyrs, but then it just turned into way too much. Beating. Break. Beating. Break. Hated it.

    Completely agree with your thoughts on I Spit and Wolf Creek.

    • Eric says:

      Yep, totally agree on Martyrs. How many times did we need to see that dude beat on the woman? Not hard to make a case for that being “torture porn.”

  7. ikari says:

    Martyrs is one of the deepest most thought provoking movie i have ever seen. I think the more you know about theology esp catholic theology the more you can see what the director is going for. although while i understand he was going for a refutation of the catholic faith, i saw it more of a reaffirmation of the catholic faith, regardless, one of the most thought provoking movie i have ever seen and definately not “torture porn”.

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