In general, I don't have a knee jerk reaction to English-language remakes of foreign films. It's rare that the results work (The Ring), and audiences are generally pretty good about ignoring the ones that deserve ignoring. Then why is it that a proposed U.S. remake of the French film Martyrs bugs me so much?

It's from producer Wyck Godfrey, the exec behind AVP, Daddy Day Care, The Nativity Story, Eragon, and, yes, The Twilight Saga. I'm sure Godfrey loves his job, and I'm sure he has every intention of delivering high quality films. I also understand that a film's success or failure, whether creatively or at the box office, doesn't solely rest on a producer's shoulders, but there is nothing in Godfrey's resume that hints that he's the right man to shepherd Martyrs to American multiplexes.

Martyrs, to me, is the final word on the torture porn horror subgenre. By forcing us to watch almost a half hour of uninterrupted human suffering (and in true torture porn fashion, an attractive girl in her underwear is given the awful beatings), director Pascal Laugier uses realistic brutality to challenge our own personal line between exciting cinematic violence and excruciating overkill. It's deliberate and part of Martyrs' brilliance.
Anyone that wants to make a torture porn film, post-Martyrs, is going to have to completely de-construct the tropes of the genre. There's no amount of horror movie violence (meaning, "safe" special-effects violence, calculated for shock and a queasy trace of sex appeal) that can be inflicted on a woman that will carry Martyrs' unflinching weight. Any filmmaker that doesn't attempt to re-invent the wheel is probably going to make a phony, meaningless movie.

Is Wyck Godfrey the man for the job? Probably not. Is his recently selected screenwriter, Mark L. Smith (Vacancy)? Probably not. I don't need an American Martyrs; I don't want the French version to lose any of its power by having to share its name with a watered-down sibling film. I don't normally wish a project ill will, but my hope is that Martyrs will never get off the ground, that no one will be able to Americanize its spirituality or soften its mind-numbing blow. Martyrs simply isn't bankable -- not as a brand name and certainly not as a horror movie crowd-pleaser. My hope is that Wyck Godfrey will realize this and give up.

{See Scott Weinberg's take on this news over at Cinematical.}
categories Movies, Horror