20th Aug2021

Fantasia 2021: ‘Martyrs Lane’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Denise Gough, Sienna Sayer, Kiera Thompson | Written and Directed by Ruth Platt

Several years ago I took a gamble at Frightfest and booked a ticket for a movie in a small screen at maybe ten or eleven in the morning (the first film of the day). It was a low budget British horror that showed a teacher’s revenge on the pupils that caused him stress and pain in his job. It was a gritty, sometimes brutal but brilliant first feature film – The Lesson – from Ruth Platt. So when I saw her name as director on a film at this year’s Fantasia Festival, I knew I had to see it.

Not many movies scare me now. Not really, occasionally I get caught up in the very best horror movies and the tension is there and it happens but not all to often. Even the so called cheap jump scares rarely work (but I love it when they do!), so I’m glad to report that it took Martyrs Lane less than three minutes to scare me and make me jump out of my seat! This can only be a good thing.

In Martyrs Lane a young girl, Leah, lives in an old and spooky vicarage when she starts getting a visitor to her room each night. At first she enjoys the interaction with this girl of a similar age but she soon realises that she has more sinister motives.

It does read like a pretty traditional haunted house story but it’s not exactly that. Part ghost story, part poltergeist, part haunted house but it also features a story about people’s loss and grief and how they deal with it. Horror has always featured these kind of tales but it seems like more recently it has become popular and created some of the very best ever horror. Films like A Quiet Place, Hereditary and The Haunting of Hill House films are few examples and it’s a sub genre of horror that I am really enjoying.

In Martyrs Lane this part of the story doesn’t come to the forefront until the last twenty minutes. But those twenty minutes are absolutely gripping and possibly the best part of the movie. The atmosphere that is created before it, there’s a constant sense that something scary will happen, helps make the conclusion of the movie all that more dramatic. The ending is an interesting one to because it can be open to interpretation but in a good way I believe.

Despite their very young age and inexperience the two girls, Kiera Thompson (as Leah) and Sienna Sayer (as Rachel) are very very good. There are many scenes which is just the two of them interacting but everything feels natural and they show really good chemistry. It was so important to cast these two girls right and the filmmakers did great in that job.

Martyrs Lane is a highly entertaining new ghost story and Ruth Platt is proving to be a very talented director, showing that she is very versatile in the horror genre. It’s only a matter of time before she is more well known…

*** 3/5

Martyrs Lane screens as part of this years Fantasia Film Festival.


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