2009's controversial Gallic gore-athon gets a US revamp as two poor girls (Troian Bellisario, Bailey Noble) go through trial by torture. The horror begins at an early age, with little Lucie surviving sadistic abuse before escaping and winding up in an orphanage. There she gets some TLC from soon-to-be best/only friend Anna, the two forming a bond that won't be truly tested until a grown-up Lucie seeks revenge for a lifetime of suffering. Blood flows... but the catharsis is all too brief, soon giving way to a whole new nightmare.
Gore! What is it good for?!
Absolutely nothing when it comes to this watered-down American remake of the 2009 French splatterfest.
Pascal Laugier's original caused a bit of a stir when it came out, its unholy union of grotesque violence and quasi-philosophical musings splitting audiences pretty much down the middle. Was it extreme horror par excellence or self-indulgent, pretentious torture porn?
Reactions this time round are likely to be far more one-sided, and not - as the great Edwin Starr would doubtless agree - in a good way. Life is much too short to sit through this blood-soaked endurance/patience test.
The screenplay comes from The Revenant co-writer Mark L Smith (no, seriously), a man who clearly likes the idea of pushing people to their absolute limits. But with Leo (understandably) nowhere to be seen, it falls to US TV stars Troian Bellisario (Pretty Little Liars) and True Blood's Bailey Noble to suffer their way through everything but attack by grizzly bear.
The author of their considerable pain is a lunatic religious cult with a worrying taste for torture (no spoiler; it's all in the trailer). Sick and twisted rituals are performed in the pursuit of a higher truth, the hope being that someone (read attractive young woman) can survive long enough to glimpse the next life and then bring their otherworldly insight back from the beyond.
A select few might see this as a nifty excuse for relentless, voyeuristic violence, but most will just be bored and/or irritated by it all.
The rushed set-up (which includes both visions of a grey-skinned demon girl AND the stealing of orphanage cookies) robs the two leads of any real character. Their role is to scream, bleed, fight back a little bit, and then scream and bleed some more.
Most unforgivable of all is the film's failure to ignite as a simple genre exercise. Save for a nasty spot of flaying the bloody horror on offer isn't all that bloody or horrible. Gore hounds will have seen far worse. So why bother?