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January 21, 2016

For her latest role, Troian Bellisario has ventured far from Rosewood. And we mean seriously far away. The 30-year-old actress, who plays overachieving brainiac Spencer Hastings on Pretty Little Liars, stars as tortured orphan Lucie in the new horror movie Martyrs, in theaters and available on VOD Friday, Jan. 22. Based on the 2008 French film of the same name, Bellisario’s latest project features visions of monsters, a transcendence-seeking killer cult, and tons of gore—making the antics of PLL’s resident tormentor, “A,” look like child’s play. (Warning, minor movie plot spoilers ahead.)

“This is by far one of the craziest movies I have ever seen,” Bellisario recently told InStyle. “I had to look away a few times while I watched it, because I’m so not a gore person—but the whole point of watching a film like this is that you cover your eyes with your hands.”

It’s admittedly hard to stomach some of what Bellisario’s character endures as she seeks revenge on abusive individuals from her past, but Lucie’s evolution in the story had Bellisario hooked. “I was completely blown away by the fact that she goes from being what seems like the craziest villain to being a hero in the end,” she said. “A lot of horror films start out with a character being innocent, and then all of a sudden by the end it is like ‘Oh, JK, she’s a serial killer,’ but not in this one. Lucie kicks down the door and starts shooting a family, and that is your introduction to this chick.”

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As the plot unfolds, Lucie’s painful past is revealed. “You learn her whole life story, and it’s up to you to judge her and see if you agree or even like her at that point,” Bellisario said. One person who sticks by Lucie’s side through it all is her longtime BFF, Anna (played by Bailey Noble). “Her love and friendship for Anna is what drew me to the film,” Bellisario said. “I liked that Lucie is really complicated and morally ambiguous as a character.”

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The role was a change of pace for Bellisario. “I can do bad things on the show in Pretty Little Liars, but ultimately I’m a good girl and my friends and I are heroes,” she said. Of course, that’s not the only difference between Lucie and Spencer. Despite the fact that they’ve both been traumatized, the two characters’ coping methods are nothing alike. “In Pretty Little Liars, Spencer and the other girls are incredibly strong, but they are still constantly in the state of victim,” she said. “For Lucie—whether I agree with the way she’s is going about it or not—she is not the victim. In fact, she’s a redeemer of sorts.”

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And despite her questionable methods for doing so, she’s trying to prevent other girls from becoming victims. “Lucie might be going about getting revenge in a completely morally wrong way, but she is saving her own life in trying to save other women,” said Bellisario. “The only thing she can do is what she is built to do to survive, and it was really exciting to play such an active character.”

While Bellisario enjoyed getting “down in the dirt and blood of reality” for the role, she admits that it spooked her. “Being alone at night has a different context for me now,” she said. “I have a very wild imagination!”

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