Wicked Horror was invited to the Screamfest LA screening of Martyrs, the Kevin and Michael Goetz remake of Pascal Laugier’s groundbreaking 2008 endurance test of the same name. During the meet-and-greet before the show I got a chance to quickly chat with Kevin Goetz. After I introduced myself, he immediately shot back with, “Let me guess—you love the original film!” After responding in the affirmative, I assured him I wasn’t anti-remake.
Kevin Goetz: Here’s thing—The original Martyrs is so brutal, and such an experience on its own; we were not hired to make that experience. I think they took a look at Scenic Route, our first film with Josh Duhamel, and said, “These guys know how to tell a story. We’re gonna take Martyrs’s story that we really like from the original, and we’re gonna give it to these guys to tell a story that is, frankly, watchable compared to the one that’s been banned in several countries, and most people have to walk out of and blah blah blah.” I mean, even I have a hard time watching it.
Wicked Horror: I think it’s hilarious! I kid, I kid…
Kevin Goetz: [Laughs] But it’s an experience, and I appreciate that people want that experience. It’s just that you’re not gonna get that from the remake. And I’m not even going to call it a remake for the rest of the night, I’m going to call it “inspired from the original movie.”
WH: So Scenic Route is one of those films—I’m gonna explain your film to you—where you take a situation and you basically tease it out and tease it out until it reaches its breaking point with the characters getting deeper and deeper and deeper into this psychological thing they’re going through. And we, as the audience, take that journey with them. The original Martyrs is that as well, but in a different way.
Kevin Goetz: You’ll see there’s a different element that comes into this one—I don’t want to give it away—that allows the character development to be similar to Scenic Route, where they get to play off each other, where in the original that doesn’t happen.
WH: Did you inherit the script that was already written for the previous production team?
Kevin Goetz: We got the script that Mark L. Smith wrote and went into production maybe a month or two after we read the script for the first time.
WH: Wow, that was fast!
Kevin Goetz: It was, “Go! And here’s less money than Scenic Route, and here’s less days than Scenic Route.” We shot Scenic Route in fourteen days, and we ended up eeking out sixteen days on this—
WH: Wait, you shot this in sixteen days? Holy shit!
Kevin Goetz: Keep that in mind when you’re watching it!
WH: One of your stars, Troian Bellisario, is from Pretty Little Liars. I can’t even imagine going from that to being on board with what this film required.
Kevin Goetz:. So on board. So on board. From the very first audition. She actually auditioned for it. You would think we would just put here in given her status, but she wanted to audition. She was committed like you wouldn’t believe. That’s what we looked for. Same with Josh Duhamel and Scenic Route: can he really do this? And once you see how committed these people get to the characters, and they understand the story that well, and they give it their all—that’s the person you want to cast. [It] was easy casting her.(At this point Bellisario and her costar Bailey Noble stroll up and chat with Goetz. As they walk away…)
WH: Look at these pretty girls that you put through such horrible things!
Kevin Goetz: We did. We put them through Hell. [Laughs] And they knew how fast our shooting schedule was, and they came in prepared. If we weren’t dumping dirt on them, if we weren’t putting them in tight spaces, if we weren’t hanging them upside down, if we weren’t making them run, making them cry—I mean, they didn’t have any light moments. And they kept it together. Shooting nights, back-to-back nights; it was tough.
WH: What’s it like working for the Blumhouse production line?
Kevin Goetz: They put the money in the bank and make sure it happens. This is Blumhouse Tilt, which is [Jason Blum’s] new thing. I feel this movie was such a gamble because of how rough [the original] was, but they just said, “Here is this amount of money, and you’re not going a penny over.” It was one of those things. And we kind of went into it like, “Yeah, sure, not a penny over…” Seven days into shooting and we really needed something? We didn’t get it. Not that they weren’t supportive, but this was the deal we signed up for. And there were times when they helped us out. They were great, but you’re going to definitely see a sixteen-day shoot.
WH: The original is sort of house-bound, and Blumhouse does a lot of single location, house-bound films. Is this the same? In the original the house is sort of a character, in that it’s sort of three houses in one.
Kevin Goetz: We had to shoot in L.A., so finding the right house in L.A. was unbelievably challenging. We’re going with a very different look than the original. We had to find a farmhouse in L.A. We really wanted to find this perfect looking, beautiful, sunlit yellow, might even have a barn out back, because there’s that evil going on underneath. That juxtaposition turned us on. Whereas in the original that house was already cold and dark. The next thing we found [was a place] where all the kids were put into jail, into detention in L.A. back in the 1960s, and it was the scariest place I’d ever been, and we were able to use that as the underground.
WH: What are you working on now?
Kevin Goetz: Very excited to start shooting in January/February in Ohio a script called Midnight written by Travis Baker and Richard Tannin. It’s basically the behind-the-scenes look at the birth of a serial killer in high school. It’s kind of like Brick.
And with that we were ushered into the screening. I won’t call this an official review, but as a huge fan of the original, I really enjoyed this new version. If you’re automatically anti-remake, you’ll probably find a reason (or two or three) not to like it, but if have an open mind about remakes, I’m guessing you’ll at the very least appreciate the Goetz Brothers’ take on the material. Martyrs will be released early 2016 both theatrically and on VOD.