The Martyrdom of Nerves: Fear’s Effects on the Body

The Martyrdom of Nerves:  Fear’s Effects on the Body

Hey there, kids.  Today, I’m going to talk to you about the body’s manifestation of fear.

MARTYRSTo be more specific, I’m going to discuss with you my experience watching the movie MARTYRS.  I’ve gotten to a point in my life where, for the most part, horror movies don’t scare me anymore.  I’ve become desensitized, if you will.  I partially blame a certain social network site I used to work for. I won’t mention any names but MY job at this SPACE was filled with some interesting responsibilities.  Some of which included reporting child pornography to the FBI and moderating content that included beheading videos and real death footage taken from hidden cams, among other things.  Of course, there were also the regular work gems Lemon Party, Goatse, and Tub Girl.  If you plan on looking these up, be warned…they are definitely gross and definitely NSFW. Besides that, you can also probably chock it up to my age and experience;  but I tend to pick apart story and observe an actor’s performance instead of letting the process of suspension of disbelief overtake me.  This has been the case with most recent horror movies.  That is, until I watched MARTYRS.

I had been aware of the buzz and rumors of this movie for months before I actually sat down to watch it.  It had a very limited run in theaters and then was quite difficult to get a hold of on DVD for a time.  During this period, I heard opinions and rumors that pretty much translated in so many words to "Do not watch this movie!" or "Sickest thing I’ve ever seen!"  Really now?  The sickest thing I had ever seen was a deranged clown dancing in the rain at night on a long stretch of deserted road in Northern California.  True story.  Surely, no movie could match that.

It was when I heard Clive Barker had signed off on Pascal Laugier to direct the HELLRAISER remake that I decided to buckle down and watch this "scariest movie ever".  Remember when PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was in theaters and the commercial advertised it as "The Scariest Movie Ever Made"?  That was a crock.  MARTYRS, on the other hand, deserves that statement stamped all over its advertising campaign and packaging.  I will go on record now and say MARTYRS is probably the scariest movie I have ever seen, even if there are no clowns in it.

Just to be clear, I watched this movie a year ago in the comfort of my own home on my comfortable couch with the comfortable company of my best friend.  We watched this movie during the day.  Not your typical middle of the night, all lights off environment for horror movie watching.  Still, this movie got under my skin like a bad case of Satan scabies.  Ok, I just made that up.  There is no such thing as Satan scabies…or is there? 

Here I am, a year later, and just merely thinking about this movie makes it hard for me to go to sleep at night.  Seriously.  There’s a limit to the porn and cartoon chasers one must view to clean the mental palate before you just have to give up and accept the scars this movie leaves all over the psyche.

Recently, seeing French horror movies like INSIDE and FRONTIER[S], I was already expecting some gruesome visuals and story.  With Pascal Laugier, though, there was something added I wasn’t expecting.  This film produced a sense of dread and anxiety that I have not felt while watching a movie in a very long time.  Throughout the entire sitting, I found my entire body tense.  By the end of the film, I was sore.  I felt like I had just finished three sets of neck pushups. Yes, neck pushups. The last time I remember having this reaction to a film was the first time I ever watched THE EXORCIST.  Mind you, I was 6 years old and too young for neck pushups.  At this point in my life, it takes a lot for a movie to garner such a reaction from me where I literally am sore after it’s over.

Please take note and consult a physician or trainer before attempting neck pushups as you may harm yourself from doing something stupid such as the aforementioned neck pushup.

Laugier’s use of sound makes a woman’s scream just about the most horrific thing my ears could take besides maybe a baby crying.  Well, maybe a clown baby crying.  There’s the numerous scenes with the creature who does many inhuman things with her spine.  This was one of the details that made Jennifer Carpenter’s performance in THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE so creepy to me; the almost impossible looking positions she got her body into.  There’s another instance in the film that brings the tortured female captive into a living room lit by the day.  Such a gruesome sight walking around a once occupied family’s living room in the middle of the day.  Not only did the environment lend to a feeling of safety and comfort but the fact it took place during the day lent a different feel to this movie.  Then, of course, the big finale of the film gave me a new found respect for the human anatomy.  The director did not compromise his story or succumb to normal horror movie conventions.  Oh, and he succeeded in scaring the crap out of me.

So much crap was scared out of me, I had to wear a diaper.  I’m totally joking…or am I?

By the time the film was over, my body had developed a certain state that I can only describe as living rigor mortis.  I was so damn tense, my hands had become claws and I could have developed lock jaw with the way my mouth was stuck open.  My best friend was huddled in a knees-to-chest upright fetal position on my couch.  This movie snuck the fear into my body like a roofie in a co-ed’s cocktail at that frat party you never told your parents about.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines fear as “A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger.”

The best way I can describe my stance on MARTYRS is similar to how one might feel taking the wrong turn in Compton at 2 am with a sweet ass and an empty tank of gas.  It may be a dangerous experience but now you know not to go down that road.  You’re a better person in gaining such knowledge through a rather unpleasant experience.  This movie is that wrong turn.

It’s like this movie seduced me with sweet nothings in my ear hole and then without warning, donkey punched me with violent excitement, invaded my no no parts without any decency to hold me afterwards, and then locked me in the bathroom feeling used and smelling like sardines. To this day, I’m not sure if I can honestly say that this is a good or bad thing though. I mean, at least they had the courtesy of putting me in the bathroom to clean up.  Am I right or am I right? MARTYRS, for me was about the very uncomfortable diaper wearing, neck push upping, donkey punching, sardine raping journey getting there.

Laugier’s storytelling and directing find fresh ways to make the nerves jangle.&nb
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So many new horror movies today have no ill effects on my body at all,  and that leaves me quite jaded.  But MARTYRS has certain scenes and images that still stand out in my head to this day, images that twist my guts, that make me cringe, that make my frame contort into uncomfortable, unnatural poses, and I watched the movie a year ago.  I will go on record and say I did not enjoy watching this movie.   But it definitely left a visceral impression, and a neck cramp that just won’t leave me.

–Aaron Pruner

  • Dominic T

    Great review;
    just would like to add that i thought that Paranormal Activity was the scariest movie i’ve ever seen. And, like yourself, i have seen many horror films (and many many sub-par “horror” films).
    Sure, this film may be as scary as or scarier than PA, but PA holds a place in my heart – for similar reasons that you’ve described in this article (the safety of home being destroyed, the utterly horrifying screams of a woman in sheer terror).
    But I have to say, you’ve sold this film to me, and I MUST see it 5 minutes ago… (i wish i had heard of it sooner!)

  • A.R.

    Dominic T, this is a far different film that PA. This is something that will probably scar you mentally, but definitely worth a viewing. I would like to add though, I just added this movie to my collection and I would suggest hardcore gore fans to watch this film.