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Film

Martyrs Lane Review: The Horrors of Tragedy from a Child’s POV

Have you ever watched a horror movie and ended up feeling more sad than scared? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me after watching Ruth Platt’s new movie, Martyrs Lane  (and I mean this in the best way possible). 

Martrys Lane tells the story of Leah, the daughter of a pastor who lives in a vicarage where people are always going when looking for help. One night, after losing something important to her mother, Leah is visited by a girl, just around her age, that might help her find that which she lost. As Leah and her new friend start to get to know each other, things start to go wrong in Leah’s household, and she starts learning some very dangerous information. 

Kiera Thompson as Leah – Martyr’s Lane, Photo Credit: Shudder

At first glance, Martyrs Lane might seem like just another movie about creepy children, but it’s more than that. At its core, this is the story of Leah, and the movie does a fantastic job of showing this. Every scene is told through Leah’s point of view which makes the viewer see the story through the eyes of childhood curiosity, fear and (maybe most importantly) intelligence. Unlike most horror movies, this film doesn’t reduce Leah to the dumb kid archetype, instead we see in Leah a smart and curious kid who is somewhat aware of what is happening around her. This decision works really well because it makes the flow of the narrative a lot more believable, and therefore enjoyable.

One thing that sure makes Leah a great character is Kiera Thompson’s acting which is pleasantly surprising. Throughout the movie, she gives a performance that makes Leah a relatable character, especially through her reactions to each of the different events that transpire through the movie . Her interactions with Sienna Sayer (who plays the mysterious visitor) are some of the best things in the movie. 

Denise Gough as Sarah, Kiera Thompson as Leah – Martyr’s Lane, Photo Credit: Shudder

What I liked most about the movie was the fact that the movie completely understood what type of movie it is. Most horror movies that have a tragedy in the center of them shy away from the sadness and the emotional beats, but Martrys Lane doesn’t. It keeps its emotions at the center of it, giving the characters space to grow and develop. The ending (of which I will try to say the least amount possible) really hits you with the sadness of it all, instead of a few jumpscares and some shocking scenes, making the experience feel unique. 

I really liked this movie, but unfortunately it still falls into some of the cliches of the modern horror movie, especially with Sienna Sayer’s character. At times, this mysterious kid feels like a good and interesting character, but other times it feels like your generic yellow eye creepy child, especially in scenes the movie is trying to be “shocking” scary, and not “slow burn” scary, which works better for the tone and the story. Also, this might be a personal pet peeve, but I’m so tired of children having unspecific health problems just to raise the tension and the stakes (to be fair this movie justifies it a bit, but still). It just feels lazy and unoriginal. 

Denise Gough as Sarah – Martyr’s Lane: Photo Credit: Shudder


All and all, I enjoyed Martyrs Lane a lot more than what I expected. Instead of the creepy kid jump scare fest I thought I was going to get, I got a slow burn horror movie with a creepy atmosphere and a story of grief at its core, which made me feel a lot more feelings than a ghost story has any right to. I heartily recommend this movie, especially for those who want a more emotional and tragic horror story this fall.

Categories
Film

Kandisha is a Brutal Take on Urban Legends

CW:  Kandisha contains gore, abuse, animal death, and suicide.

Kandisha, a new Shudder Original Film that premieres July 22nd only on Shudder is a female-led horror film that acts as an especially brutal take on the urban legend subgenre.

Directors, Alexandre Bastille and Julien Maury (A L’intérieur, Leatherface) have a background in New French Extremity; a film movement characterized by, amongst other things, extreme violence. While not as intense as other films that have been attached to the movement (take, for example, Martyrs), Kandisha is still violent to a further extent than most horror movies, especially most urban legend movies.

the film follows three girls, Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse), Bintou (Suzy Bemba), and Morjana (Samarcande Saadi) as they face off against an evil spirit that is killing the men they love one by one. Part slasher film and part ghost story, Kandisha incorporates both elements by tying them together with an urban legend type story based on the Moroccan legend of Aïsha Kandisha, a beautiful woman with goat legs who lives near water sources and preys on men. The legend of Kandisha is first introduced while the protagonists are painting a mural of one of the girls’, Morjana’s parents who had died before the movie’s beginning. While painting, they find the word “Kandisha” written on one of the walls in the abandoned building they’re using for the mural. Morjana explains to Amélie and Bintou who Kandisha is and the girls begin to make fun of the idea of a spirit who comes when you perform a specific ritual.

L-R: Morjana (Samarcande Saadi), Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse), and Bintou (Suzy Bemba) / Photo Credit: Shudder

Eventually, after a harrowing encounter with her ex-boyfriend leads to a physical altercation, Amélie summons Kandisha, resulting in the death of her ex and leading to further deaths as all of the men in the girls’ lives are killed one by one until only Amélie’s younger brother remains.

Aside from the level of gore, Kandisha has few characteristics that distinguish it from other urban legend-inspired movies. It’s far from being counted among the worst like The Bye Bye Man and Slender Man but it’s also not a standout like Candyman. At the same time, however, Kandisha isn’t trying to be more than what it is; it understands that it isn’t “elevated horror” (a term I loathe for reasons I won’t be getting into here), it’s a popcorn movie, something fun to see with friends, albeit with a bit more bite than one might expect. 

Amelie (Mathlide Lamusse) / Photo Credit: Shudder

One of the most interesting aspects of Kandisha is the way it escalates, slowly easing you in as the deaths get progressively more gruesome, only to show little of the final death; nothing more than a single shot from far away. While there are many gross moments, Kandisha never feels especially gratuitous. In fact, in a scene that shares similarities to a scene in Suspiria (2018) far less is shown in this version than in Suspiria’s. However, it’s still heard, and we do still see the blood from the kill as well as the reaction of an onlooker. Despite that, while time is spent lingering on the body of the victim, it isn’t an especially long time. None of the deaths are greeted with long shots of the aftermath, for most, it’s quick cuts after showing us just enough.

But that isn’t to say there’s not an aftermath of another kind shown on screen. Rather than spending long on the gore, Kandisha shows us the mourners. A shot of a memorial to one of the victims is shown, Amélie, Bintou, and Morjana discuss their grief with each other. There’s a focus on the toll that these deaths are taking more so than there is on the actual deaths themselves.

Kandisha succeeds in almost every respect up until the ending which, if I’m being entirely honest, feels a little bit like a sequel hook for a movie that decidedly doesn’t need a sequel. Kandisha is strong enough to stand on its own and I hope it continues to be standalone for that reason.