Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Martyrs Lane (2021)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Martyrs Lane (2021)
Genre: Horror
Length: 96 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: British Film Institute, Ipso Facto Productions, Sharp House, LevelK, Shudder
Director: Ruth Platt
Writer: Ruth Platt
Actors: Anastasia Hille, Catherine Terris, Charlie Rix, Denise Gough, Donna Banya, Hannah Rae, Julie Barclay, Kiera Thompson, Lianne Harvey, Sienna Sayer, Steven Cree
Blurb from IMDb:  Leah, 10, lives in a large vicarage, full of lost souls and the needy. In the day the house is bustling with people; at night it is dark, empty, a space for Leah's nightmares to creep into. A small, nightly visitor brings Leah comfort, but soon she will realise that her little visitor offers knowledge that might be very, very dangerous.

Cat’s Point of View:
If a reference volume, listing shining examples of genre films, is ever published, Martyrs Lane is a shoo-in. It's a masterfully crafted, and understated, ghost story.
My only issue with Martyrs Lane really isn’t even that big of a deal. The pacing seems a hair slower than necessary in some places, but honestly, it could be intentional just to draw out the suspense. That’s it. The entirety of this movie is executed with subtlety and nuance. It’s not often you find that with films involving young actors of the age range we see here.

Ruth Platt’s (The Pianist, The Lesson, The Black Forest) skillful writing and directing of this film belie her short list of credits on IMDb for those roles. I adore the puzzle-building process that we see in Martyrs Lane. Platt gives us just a small piece at a time as the story unfolds. We start to see a framework and then things really start falling into place.
Can we pause for a moment to also appreciate that Martyrs Lane provides tension and suspense laced with thrills without the need for gore and carnage? I would say that this horror movie is an example of a minimalist’s usage of all things bloody. If you are craving a splatter-fest, this isn’t the movie for you. If you’re looking for the visual embodiment of an excellent campfire tale, you are where you belong.

I am not often this impressed with performances from child actors. Kiera Thompson (3 Sleeps, The Salisbury Poisonings, The Emily Atack Show) absolutely nailed it. I bought her health issues, her anxiety, and how over-it she was with the dynamic in her household. I could just see myself in her shoes and I felt her emotional journey. That’s quite a feat when many scenes involve no dialogue and require an actor to silently emote.
Of course, the rest of Martyrs Lane’s cast deserves kudos, also. They skillfully painted the picture of a loving family brought to dysfunction by a hidden tragedy in the past. It’s easy to get swept into the chaos of their daily lives in the shadow of their duty to their parish, where the family’s patriarch is the vicar.

I could rattle on forever about the ambiance woven by sound and visuals, but I’ll spare you the details - save for one. It is going to be hard for me to get the sound of the crinkly breathing out of my head. That came through with eerie and haunting realism, no pun intended.
It’s finally time for the seasons to change, and with fall comes the ushering-in of all things spooky. If you’re looking for a spellbinding story of specters for a night of hot cocoa to chase the chills, Martyrs Lane may be just the movie for you.
Martyrs Lane releases on Shudder Thursday, September 9th.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 89%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.9/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating – PG-13
Movie Trailer:

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