Fantasia 2021 Review: MARTYRS LANE

Martyrs Lane had its World Premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, among the 25 feature film World Premieres at this year’s 25th annual festival. This may be within the horror genre, but it is not the type to have the gory, slasher violence. It is a drama as well with the focus on the parent-child relationships. This supernatural thriller features 10-year-old Leah (Kiera Thompson) and a similarly aged child, Rachel (Sienna Sayer) who taps at Leah’s window most times in the middle of the night, claiming to be her guardian angel. What initially appears to be a child looking out for Leah’s best interests, Rachel’s actions/information slowly begin to turn creepy and the audience can see things are not as they seem. Filmmaker Ruth Platt (The Lesson, Black Forest) wrote and directed this feature, expanded from her 2019 short film by the same name, and created a dark and captivating story.

Leah lives in the vicarage home with her parents, father Thomas (Steven Cree, Outlaw/King, Brave) who ministers locally and on occasion on call, as well as her mother, Sarah (Denise Gough, Game of Thrones prequel series). Both are on the go, away – either physically or emotionally – and Leah fills her time exploring and keeping items in her own “treasure” or keepsake box. Leah’s pre-college aged sister (Hannah Rae, Broadchurch, Fighting with My Family) is into her own world, but nonetheless like to mess with Leah’s mind with tales about spirits and hauntings. The home is evidently older with creaking floors, and full of crucifixes, statuettes, and other religious paraphernalia. The film’s production design by Gini Godwin is not a house full of horrors nor overly done.

Leah lives by her faith and devotion and takes to heart a passage that is printed and hung in the church hall: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Leah does her best to show Rachel the angel hospitality in her room from the elements and yet after they form a bond, following through on hints from Rachel about finding treasures, Leah finds out her family is not on board with digging into the past. 

All the performances are excellent, and Sienna Sayer won the Cheval Noir award, Special Mention for Rising Star – well deserved!

Producers: Christine Alderson, Katie Hodgkin

Cinematography: Márk Gyori

Editor: Chris Barwell

UK. 2020. 96 minutes. The film is now available exclusively on the genre-specialist streamer Shudder – can be seen in North America, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand; among others.

Source: Fantasia, Shudder

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