Leah (Kiera Thompson) is a ten-year-old girl who lives in a vicarage with her older sister, mother and father. Her family is highly religious, and they find themselves always helping others in need, and people within the community will request a blessing or even require a place to stay. Leah is asthmatic, and at times, when she has a bad dream or is under stress, she struggles to breathe and requires an inhaler. Nighttime is rather quiet around the home, but one night, Leah gets a visitor from a young girl (Sienna Syer) who seems to be innocent, playful and friendly. At the end of the conversation, Leah is given a clue from the stranger about where she can find an item around the house. Leah wakes up with fright and questions if her interactions with the young girl were just a dream or real.
As Leah follows the instructions given, she finds something unexpected. Her interactions with the young girl continue to occur repeatedly at night. At the end of their conversations, she is always given a clue, and each morning, she wakes with a scare, questioning if it was a dream. What do these clues that Leah keep finding mean? And who is this stranger talking to Leah each night and, more importantly, what’s her true intentions?
Martyrs Lane is best described as a ghost story in which some horror elements are introduced. Another unexpected element is that this film introduces many mysteries relating to Leah’s family. Essentially, the audience unravels these mysteries with Leah. This unravelling makes the movie a slow burn, but it is still highly enjoyable watching the lead connect the dots and come to a final reveal.
The performances here are positive, and naturally, I’m talking about the two young leading child performers. Considering this film mixes many mysteries and horror, I truly felt their performances to be convincing and praiseworthy. There are also moments where the young actresses deliver touching moments, which is are quite dramatic and great to see.
The atmosphere is another topic that deserves praise. The look is generally dark and spooky, and I enjoyed the visual tones, especially when Leah is trying to sleep during the night or even when she is walking alone somewhere like the woods. The reveals are gripping and fun. At first, the ending stumped me ever so slightly, but the more I thought about it, the more I found myself appreciating it, and I loved the fact this film
took larger risks, which I feel did pay off quite nicely. Nothing on-screen is predictable, which was another pleasant surprise.
Overall, as slow-burning horror, Martyrs Lane is quite pleasing. The film introduces an interesting story with many mysteries before concluding with an unpredictable finale. The children’s performances here are great and convincing. The atmosphere throughout is dark and spooky and, again, pleasing. It’s been a while since movie lovers were greeted with a fun ghosty tale, and this certainly feels refreshing as the credits rolled. Martyrs Lane (2021) is Available on Shudder from September 9th!