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FINAL GIRL PROFILE: Anna, Martyrs (2008)

by Gina Freitag

A good horror movie stands out by playing with convention, challenging boundaries, evolving with audience expectations, but also taking a few risks. The same applies to the Final Girl archetype, especially in Pascal Laugier’s captivating film Martyrs (2008). Its stark violence, alarming imagery, and destabilization of patriarchal paradigms are embodied by Anna, and she is no ordinary Final Girl.

The film opens with Lucie, whose past trauma drives her desire for vengeance against those who irrevocably damaged her early in life. However, once that drive is sated, giving way to her self-destruction, Lucie’s loyal companion Anna takes the spotlight. Anna has been Lucie’s only source of solace and comfort while struggling with inner demons. In the aftermath of Lucie’s murderous rampage at the apparent homestead of her former captor, it is Anna who continually seeks to right wrongs, guided by empathy and mercy. First she attempts to rescue one of her friend’s victims, despite their history of brutality. Then, in discovering the ongoing horror hidden in the bowels of the house, she struggles to revive the remaining humanity in the captor’s latest victim: a wild, sinewy, ravaged woman. Her efforts are rendered futile as she, too, is captured and held hostage, though she manages to withstand what many before her could not: extreme and persistent torture that brings her to the brink of death, all at the hands of a matriarchal cult seeking the truth of the afterlife. But Anna is more than a victim: she brings defeat to the cult leader with only a few whispered words of unbearable truth.

Anna is truly the ultimate symbol of the enduring strength and moral superiority on which the Final Girl trope was built, and through violence she is elevated in all her martyred glory. How can you argue with that?

Black Museum Debate Club’s FINAL GIRL FACE-OFF is on December 12, 2017

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