Martyrs Lane follows a young girl who is visited nightly by a mysterious girl at her window. As she plays games and builds a friendship with the weird child, things start to seem out of place and the increasingly wounded child appears to hold some dark secrets.
[This movie was viewed on Shudder at the time of this review.]
Martyrs Lane Review
Martyrs Lane certainly has the presence of a more mild and low-key horror film right from the beginning. It is quite clear it is going to be a slow burn with a gradual crescendo in intensity and darkness. And that's all fine and good...as long as the build is engaging enough, the story is substantial enough, and the payoff is worth it. While the tension builds properly in its subtle visuals, the story is very predictable and inevitably leads to a climax that is severely underwhelming and disappointing.
The plot eventually trots into this rhythm in which the mysterious girl visits every night, looking ever-so-slightly more worse for the wear than the night before, and plays a game of truth, lies, and riddles, gradually leading our protagonist to discover little clues scattered around the grounds of her family's estate. The rhythm begins to feel episodic, and once you realize (and it's fairly quickly that you do) the point of it all, you just can't wait for the "last nightly visit" to finally get to the reveal that you've probably seen coming a mile away.
While it is set like a dark fantasy drama for much of the runtime, there are these brief and subtle visuals that really catch the eye and pull you in. One particular scene I watched over and over again to not only keep myself from blinking and actually convince myself of what I'd seen, but to also admire the brilliance of the quick shot. It is the defining moment in which your suspicions (that are barely that at this point, of course) are verified, that something sinister or at least volatile is afoot.
The girl at the window does get genuinely creepier and creepier with every scene...with her gradual decomposition, unsettling motions, and eerie sounds teasing the hopefully-horrific conclusion we're all anticipating. It's really the only thing to look forward to as we approach the halfway point of the film, as we know nothing is going down until the protagonist discovers all of the clues hinted at and finishes the "puzzle". It makes the story predictable not only in its reveal, but also scene to scene. And that is, as you can imagine, rather boring.
But maybe it's all worth it? Sadly, no. The painstakingly executed subtle terror of the girl at the window is squandered with a weak climax. We keep getting our own visual cues and hints along the way, and it all amounts to what we expected plot-wise, but also executed in the most bland and uninteresting of ways. Perhaps we were supposed to be more involved with the supporting cast so that the finale has more weight, but frankly the conclusion makes me hate the supporting cast even more. What I'm sure was supposed to be some profound evaluation of grief turns into a tale of inexplicable "bullying" that has no rhyme or reason in hindsight. It's nonsensical.
So, as we said...slow-burners need that engaging tension and this movie certainly had that at times. But it also needs a plot that keeps you involved, and this movie misses the mark with its rhythmic and predictable structure. But all the flaws can be forgiven if you can just pull off the ending. And that is where this movie falls the most flat. And that is what is most disappointing of all.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 4/10
Film Quality: 4/10