Monday, July 4, 2022

MARTYRS LANE (2021) (Acorn Media International DVD Review)


Label: Acorn Media International
Region Code: 1,2 
Rating: Cert. 15 
Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen
Director: Ruth Platt
Cast: Denise Gough, Kiera Thompson, Steven Cree, Hannah Rae, Sienna Sayer

In the Shudder Original Martyrs Lane (2021) depressed and lonely 10-year old Leah (Kiera Thompson) lives in a creaky old Victorian vicarage with her depressingly distant mother Sarah (Denise Gough), her vicar father Thomas (Steven Cree) who is seemingly always busy with his parish, and rebellious teen sister Bex (Hannah Rae, Carmilla), who is both watchful and somewhat abusive towards her younger sibling. From the start things seem off in the home, Leah is seen sneaking and tip-toeing around the house, avoiding her mother while also snooping through her things, and spending most of her days in isolation, keeping mostly to herself without a friend. At night she suffers nightmares a locket worn by her mother, it's clear that something heavy is looming over this family, some sort of shared trauma, but what exactly that might be is only hinted in the early on, with the film feeding us only fragmented pieces of the puzzle. 

While taking a shortcut through a strange patch of woods, which her sister tells her is haunted, Leah encounters a m mysterious young girl (Sienna Sayer) roughly her own age. Later the young girl visits Leah in her room and they begin to bond over a game called "two truths, one lie". The nightly visits continue and they play their game, with the young girl telling Leah where to find some trinkets, a series of lettered charm beads, that Leah had previously lost, which seem to hold personal meaning for her. As these games progress the mysterious new friend, who no one else in the house has seen, develops a bit of subtle menace about her. Her appearance begins to change in alarming ways; she's very pale, her skin is mottled, and her nose bleeds, which made me wonder what exactly was happening; is she is an imaginary friend conjured by the troubled girls, a ghost, a vampire, something demonic, or perhaps even a guardian angel as she herself tells Leah?    

At it's core this a well-acted family drama about a shared personal trauma that hangs heavily over a deeply depressed family, with Platt adding the trappings of a ghostly fairy-tale to it. Child actors Thompson and Sayer are particularly good, imbuing the film with much of it's melancholy and sadness it traffics in so well, but it's a messy and muddled affair as well, the blending of psychological trauma, loss, grief and the supernatural don't mesh together in a truly satisfying way. That said, I thought it it was quite well directed and handsomely shot film, but on a script level it failed to pull me in. I began to feel impatient with it early on, it starts off slow and at a certain point I got ahead of it, and we never quite met up again. It's not a bad film by any means, but not one I would feel the need to revisit anytime soon either. 

The DVD release does offer a few extras by way of a of 5-min behind-the-scenes featurette, a 5-min interview with the director, and a still gallery. The Acorn Media DVD is advertised as region 2 but played just fine on my region 1 player, so it might be region-free. 

Special Features:
- Behind-the-Scenes (5 min)
- Behind-the-Scenes - Photo Gallery
- Interview with Writer/Director Ruth Platt (5 min) 

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