Martin (1976)

A vampire for our age of disbelief.
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Martin - A Vampire for Our Age of Disbelief

In 1977 George A. Romero unleashed a very alternative vampire movie into the horror world. Martin is far from a traditional vampire and the viewer is left wondering if they are watching a movie about Nosferatu or about a mixed up loner slash serial killer. Martin creates an unusual atmosphere where the watcher is left feeling sympathy for the poor browbeaten bloodsucker despite his monstrous ways. Overall the movie is very played down with an underlying yet totally believable vampire theme; in fact the horror of the movie does not come from violent fantasy but from the notion that this could be a true story of a psychologically unbalanced killer, a theme which the marketing of the movie played on.

Martin (John Amplas) is convinced he is an eighty-four year old victim of a family curse which involved a vampire being born every few generations. He doesn't have fangs and is unaffected by the conventional vampire repellents but he does have a thirst for blood. He chooses his victims carefully and when he has them on their own he injects them with a (quite slow reacting) sleeping drug then slices them with a razor so he can gorge on their sanguine juices.

As Martin's peculiar habits are a family matter he is sent to live with his devoutly religious, highly superstitious uncle Tada Cuda. Tada has taken on the responsibility of saving Martin's soul then destroying him. He treats his house guest not much better than an animal and after trying to surprise Martin with a few old world vampire give-aways such as mirrors, garlic and crucifixes to no avail, decides that at least he should set some ground rules, the main one being "Don't kill the locals". Tada's daughter is unwilling to believe the Nosferatu garbage that he father spouts and try's to connect with the withdrawn Martin unaware that he is fully aware (or delusional) about his situation.

Martin finds life difficult coping with his uncle's eccentric ways plus coping with the affability of the local community who obviously hold Cuda with high regard and therefore assume the same morality from his family members. Martin's only solace becomes a phone-in radio chat show where his honesty about his affliction soon escalates him to the radio show's favourite nutcase. Unable to control his bloodlust and unable to settle into life with his zealous uncle, Martin soon indulges in his gluttonous fetishes leaving poor Tada Cuda in a morally difficult situation.

Romero has created an ingenious look at two extremities of characters, the fanatical religiousness of Cuda and the disturbed yet tortured evilness of Martin, and their interaction with the "normal" people of the world. The movie relies heavily on the characteristics of Martin which is quite a feat as he rarely speaks. There are a number of recreations of classic Dracula scenes but portrayed in a credible and almost parodistic manner, there are Martin's monochrome flashbacks (or fantasies) to the days when he lived a more traditional vampiric life and there is a brutally abrupt ending. Altogether Martin is a hidden gem which seems to have been overlooked, embellishing the complex ironic subtleties that make George A. Romero such a masterful horror director.
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