French splatterfest "Martyrs" offers a few genuine scares early on, but they're quickly washed away by all the blood tossed around by writer-director Pascal Laugier ("House of Voices"). With no apparent goal beyond keeping the ketchup count high, the pic dispenses with its plot -- basically "Hostel," without the laughs -- and turns its two heroines into human pincushions for the talented makeup f/x team. Film should score OK with hardcore gore fans, but others will expect martyrdom for sticking it out until the end. After appealing its original NC-18 rating (very rare in France), Gaul-side Sept. 3 release received an NC-16 tag.

French splatterfest “Martyrs” offers a few genuine scares early on, but they’re quickly washed away by all the blood tossed around by writer-director Pascal Laugier (“House of Voices”). With no apparent goal beyond keeping the ketchup count high, the pic dispenses with its plot — basically “Hostel,” without the laughs — and turns its two heroines into human pincushions for the talented makeup f/x team. Film should score OK with hardcore gore fans, but others will expect martyrdom for sticking it out until the end. After appealing its original NC-18 rating (very rare in France), Gaul-side Sept. 3 release received an NC-16 tag.

Script replaces Eli Roth’s thrill-seeking businessmen with a cult of wealthy savages who torture their captives to provoke a state of Joan of Arc-like grace. When a young girl (Jessie Pham) manages to escape their clutches, she returns 15 years later (now played by Mylene Jampanoi) for revenge, but winds up sending herself and her galfriend (Morjana Alaoui) back to the chopping block. Hell-bent on joining the Splat Pack, helmer Laugier has neither the humor nor the skills to make the pic interesting.

Martyrs

France-Canada

Production

A Wild Bunch (in France)/Weinstein Co. (in U.S.) release of an Eskwad, Wild Bunch (France)/TCB Film (Canada) production. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Richard Grandpierre, Simon Trottier. Executive producers, Frederic Doniguian, Marcel Giroux. Directed, written by Pascal Laugier.

Crew

Camera (color), Nathalie Moliavko-Visotzky, Stephane Martin; editor, Sebastien Prangere; music, Seppuku Paradigm; production designer, Jean-Andre Carriere; costume designer, Claire Nadon. Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Les Halles 3, Paris, Sept. 6, 2008. (In Fantasy Filmfest, Germany; Frightfest, London; Toronto Film Festival -- Midnight Madness.) Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Morjana Alaoui, Mylene Jampanoi, Catherine Begin, Robert Toupin, Patricia Tulasne, Juliette Gosselin, Xavier Dolan-Tadros, Jessie Pham.

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