Terror has the power to shock, disturb and frighten us. But it can also easily move us and force us to conduct much-needed introspection. This is the situation in Martyrs Lane, who came to the horror streamer Shudder on Thursday.
The streaming service owned by AMC Networks chose Martyrs Lane before its premiere at the Canadian Fantasia Film Festival. One of the young stars, Sienna Sayer, won the Black Knight Special Award.
This film examines how the past has bothered us in a thoughtful and chilling way. Sadness cannot simply be buried and forgotten.
You can watch Martyrs Lane exclusively on Shudder on September 9.
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Escape the past
In Martyrs Lane, 10-year-old Leah lives with her family in a parsonage in the UK. Surrounded by the community and living a generally peaceful life, Leah still feels certain tensions outside of the daily family quarrels.
At night, Leah is often awakened by her mother’s inexplicable screams, but she cannot approach and understand her. There is a wall between mother and daughter, Leah can’t figure it out.
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When Leah began to see a girl appearing at night, her skin was rotten, with mysterious angel wings, and she began to unravel the trauma that had plagued her mother in the past but was still hidden from sight. Leah could feel that the unspoken things had something to do with the girl who visited her and the feelings her mother had concealed.
For a few nights, the girls played a game in which Leah looked for small clues about her mother’s illness. Like a family archaeologist, she found meaning in the ordinary objects in the family, sometimes deliberately hidden, or even buried directly.
Through the genre of ghost stories, writer and director Ruth Pratt delves into the lingering effects of sadness and trauma. We are troubled by our past, and what we suppress is always possible to make a comeback. It affects us and those closest to us. It cannot be contained, hidden or forgotten, but must be handled in one way or another.
The miserable resilience of children
Telling the story of Martyrs Lane from the perspective of a child is a wonderful move. We have too many demands on our children, and sometimes we don’t even know it ourselves. Their understanding is much more than we thought.
Leah is no exception. She felt her mother’s distance. She knew that something bad had happened. She knows that some topics are also forbidden.
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But in the process some things became flattened. We jumped from Leah’s dream to her tense relationship with her sister, to her struggle with the Bible and her own beliefs, to what might be a very real ghost visiting her at night.
This is one of the reasons Leah’s views are so valuable. She has not learned to divide like the grown-ups in her life. She experienced everything completely without filtering, which gave her insight that most of us have lost.
Martyrs Lane provides a powerful portrayal of family struggles, and the unsaid things will not simply disappear.
Catch up with Martyrs Lane in Shudder on September 9.