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DVD Review

DVD cover

Martyrs Lane


Starring: Denise Gough, Steven Cree, Anastasia Hille, Hannah Rae and Kiera Thompson
Distributor: Acorn Media International
RRP: £15.99
5 036193 036873
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 04 July 2022

Leah (Kiera Thompson) is a little girl who lives with her distant and dismissive mother (Denise Gough) and her distracted priest father (Steven Cree) in a large Victorian vicarage. She feels she is walking on eggshells, and it doesn’t help that she is regularly visited by nightmares. A mysterious young girl knocks on her bedroom window. She is bedraggled, dirty and wears damaged angel wings strapped to her back. She wants to play a game. This is the beginning of a dangerous psychological journey which will uncover the secrets of her family’s aloofness, or destroy their unit forever...

Martyrs Lane is described as both a ghostly gothic fairy tale and a psychological thriller. I’m not sure either of these promotional lines are accurate. It’s not gothic, it’s not a fairy tale, and it’s certainly not a thriller. I would refer to the film as an emotional ghost story wherein the clues have to be pieced together before Leah’s confrontation with her mother and the subsequent reveal. The truth is the viewer will guess pretty early on that her mother has lost a child somewhere along the line. The atmosphere in the house and the fact her mother keeps a lock of hair makes this practically obvious. Admittedly, I initially thought it was Leah’s twin that had perished at birth; that certainly would have explained why Leah was resented so much. The actual outcome would surely have made her mother Sarah more protective of what she had, rather than dismissive. Nevertheless, Families react in different ways to distressing situations and the emotions here are valid and well-handled. I was particularly intrigued by the elder teenaged daughter, who was generally cruel to Leah – at one point purposefully tickling her into an asthma attack – but ultimately watched over her well-being.

Having said that, the film is much more a study of human nature in the face of adversity than it is a ghost story. It’s not giving much away to reveal the girl visiting Leah is the ghost; the story concentrates on the unanswered questions of just who the little girl is and what her connection is to the family in the vicarage. This is intriguingly revealed a little at a time throughout the game. Clues are given for Leah to follow and she keeps her discoveries in a box, so I can understand some people’s connections to Pan’s Labyrinth – although this is a very different film and nowhere near being in the same league. There is no real fear and horror portrayed (Leah readily accepts the existence of the girl in white); with an occasional bloody nose, a nasty wound in her back (real wings growing?) and highlighted veins on the side of her face, the more sinister aspect originates from the girl’s expression, at times looking angry, frustrated or dangerous. In fact, Hannah Rae plays the ghost/angel very well.

Acorn Media International releases this Shudder Original DVD of Martyr’s Lane, by writer/director Ruth Platt. This film is probably a little below par compared to the majority of their output, but I’ve generally been very impressed with the Shudder releases. Extras include Behind-the-Scenes, Photo Gallery, and an Interview with Ruth Platt.


Ty Power

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