STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS BEFORE....CONTAINS SPOILERS
Oh no! Another remake! Another veritable classic goes through Hollywood's chop shop to be transformed into bland beige gloop: all the rough edges shaved off, all the sharp corners smoothed over, all the distinct textures washed away into tepid, anonymous mediocrity. Can't they leave our beloved masterpieces alone and try to make something original, rather than desecrating things they simply don't understand? The Wicker Man, Friday The 13th, Robocop, and now this....
In the event, of course, it doesn't really matter. Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Dawn Of The Dead will always be Carpenter, Craven and Romero, in spite of the best efforts of whichever one of Larry, Curly and Moe thought they could do better. If it turns out they can do better: well, hurrah, you've got another great movie to enjoy that you weren't expecting. And if they can't: you can just smile smugly in the knowledge that it was a dumb idea all along. Duff remakes of films that weren't even masterpieces in the first place, like The Fog, Last House On The Left or The Amityville Horror, are already all but forgotten, but of course the wild and undeniably superior reimaginings of The Thing and The Fly can be discounted because they don't really fit the argument.
The basic thrust of Martyrs remains the same: young girls are held captive by a cult (led this time by Kate Burton) and subjected to extreme torture, to push their agonies to a point of transcendence where they can see into the afterlife and then report back what they witnessed. But this new version is nowhere near as brutal as Pascal Laugier's 2008 original: it's still pretty grisly (enough to get an 18 certificate) but, depending on your point of view, either more accessible or less confrontational. As one who wasn't wildly enthusiastic about the original film (I did like it but I've had no desire to watch it at any point in the intervening seven years) I don't believe this is entirely a bad thing.
Yes, sure it's softer than the original. But it's made for the more mainstream, less adventurous audience who probably aren't going to look at the original foreign language version anyway. By comparison it may be only turned up to eight, but not everything needs to be played at full blast and it doesn't lose anything from being toned down a notch. And it's not as if you don't still have the French original to enjoy!